Walking into any of Hyde Park Day School’s three campuses, one is enveloped in a palpable sense of calm. Here students with learning disabilities study for an average of 2.7 years, confidently gaining the tools needed to reach their full potential, before transitioning back to their neighborhood school. Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, Hyde Park Day School (HPDS) continues to provide an innovative and comprehensive education model. The full-day school program offers specialized curriculum for students, grades first through eighth, with moderate to severe learning disabilities who have average to above-average intelligence. Since the school’s founding, nearly 500 students with learning disabilities have successfully transitioned back into schools in their home community.
Opening with just five students in 2000 in a converted auditorium on the University of Chicago’s campus, today there are 145 students across three campuses throughout the Chicago area—including Hyde Park/Woodlawn, Northfield, and Lemont. Board members Jim and Joanne Steinback note, “We have been involved with Hyde Park Day School since day one and have seen the school evolve tremendously over the last 20 years.”
The school’s nurturing environment is designed to build self-esteem, self-confidence, and a genuine interest in learning. HPDS’s dynamic atmosphere helps students identify the ways they learn best, demonstrating that students who receive the appropriate intervention can develop the skills necessary to keep pace in traditional classrooms. HPDS achieves success by teaching students how best to leverage their significant strengths in difficult areas. Equally as important, they also teach students how to self-advocate for the unique tools needed to be successful.
A small student/teacher ratio of 5:1 that typically limits class size to ten children per classroom helps support HPDS’s mission of remediating challenges and gives children the tools needed to transition. The resource-intensive school showcases an integrated team approach to education, with speech language pathologists, social workers, and occupational therapists working together on campus to address the unique needs of each child. During the child’s time at HPDS, staff work seamlessly to enable each student with a set of skills, including goal setting and perseverance, to help them better cope with day-to-day life at their neighborhood schools.
Dr. Casey Crnich, HPDS Executive Director, shares, “this coming year, we will embark on a new strategic planning process to set the direction for the next phase of our growth. In addition to maintaining our standards for excellence with our current instruction, we are providing services beyond our walls and sharing our expertise with parents and professionals in the larger community.”
Critical to HPDS’s strategic growth plan is The Bright Futures Scholarship Fund, established in 2005, to provide children who struggle with learning disabilities access to the specialized education model, regardless of family income. Since its inception, the Fund has assisted 245 students and has provided more than $3.6 million in assistance. Restoring a child’s ability to feel good about themselves as a learner, promoting their self-confidence while teaching acceptance of others remains priceless.
For more information, visit hydeparkday.org.