WOODSTOCK – Tuesday night was about family.
That was the message of Trina Harrelson, a teacher at the Special Education District of McHenry County Center School, slated to cease operations once the summer school program ends in July. Harrelson, who has been with SEDOM for 25 years, was the keynote speaker during the school’s graduation ceremony.
With the school’s end in sight, Tuesday’s event marked not only the conclusion of this school year, but the end of SEDOM as the school families have come to know it.
“Hopefully I will continue in this profession despite the closure and the downsizing, which we’re all suffering through together,” Harrelson said to parents, students, faculty and staff sitting in the school gym, “but tonight really isn’t about me.
“It’s about family. It’s about the graduating students and their parents and families.”
The school was attended this year by 62 to 64 students, and of those, nine high school students in Panther purple robes received diplomas and three junior high students were recognized. A number of others were awarded trophies or certificates for achievements in various extracurricular activities, such as cheerleading and bowling.
Katie Ickes, 17, won several awards, giving the crowd a thumbs-up every time she walked back to her seat with a new trophy.
After the ceremony her father, Robert Ickes of Harvard, echoed Harrelson’s remarks – the closure of SEDOM school feels like losing a family.
“This school has been fantastic for my children,” Robert Ickes said. “I actually have two here. My son, Richard, just graduated tonight.
“Losing this school, I mean, I don’t see where they’re going to get what they got here anywhere else.”
He added he still doesn’t know where Katie will go next year.
Once the school ceases operations under the SEDOM organization, its students will disperse to schools in their home districts or elsewhere depending on their respective Individualized Education Program plan.
As for the school’s faculty, SEDOM’s program facilitator Linda Cruise said some have gotten job offers in other school districts, both locally and farther away. Harrelson said a number are still in search of new opportunities.
In her speech, the 25-year veteran admitted her own future still was unclear, but said Tuesday night was a time to celebrate the time they’ve all spent in the SEDOM school family.
“I can’t give you many answers tonight,” she said, noting 2015 marks SEDOM’s 50th anniversary. “But tonight, we will celebrate the journey together.”
The decision to close the school came in September after years of declining enrollment, SEDOM Executive Director Kathy Wilhoit said, adding enrollment was going down as member districts began providing more in-house programming.
Cruise said the school’s operation in the building will continue for the summer school program. However, the building’s lease has been taken over by the School of Expressive Arts and Learning, once in Algonquin, she said, adding three district classrooms will remain under SEDOM faculty responsibility for the organization’s transitional programs.