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Maryville breaks ground on new school

The Maryville Jen School broke ground on its new school, the Charles H. Walsh Sr. Academy and Career Tech High School, on November 9, 2022, located at 6935 W Touhy Ave in Niles. The academy is named after the late Chuck Walsh, an alum of Maryville Academy, who also served as a member of its Board of Directors for several years. The Academy will be open in Fall 2023.

Walsh Academy will continue Jen School’s founding vision to provide students with disabilities with a comprehensive and experiential instructional model in academics, career and vocational pathways, and social-emotional skills through research-based practices. The Walsh Academy will prepare students with skills to be career or college ready.

“For over 15 years, Jen School has approached education from the student’s perspective and needs as individuals. This approach has allowed our students to earn their high school diplomas and move on to the next phase of their journey,” said Ann Craig, Maryville’s director of educational services and Jen School principal.

The new Walsh Academy will create more opportunities for special needs students while helping them reach their fullest potential. It is the only school in Illinois that has a teacher, social worker and paraprofessional in the classroom.

“I spent two years at the Jen School and graduated from 8th grade in 2016. During my time there, I felt I was heard and listened to. The teachers and staff really care about each student. They taught me never to give up. They taught me how to channel my life for the better when I was struggling. I still like to go back to the Jen School and visit even after graduating from high school and working full time,” shared Nick.

Skilled tradespeople are in high demand, and there is an untapped opportunity to educate and prepare special needs students. Trade jobs like electricians, plumbers, machinists, welding and HVAC are high-demand and high-paying jobs, however, 62% of national contractors are struggling to fill over 8 million important skilled trade positions. Additionally, graduation rates for special education students are significantly lower than the general population. 

The Walsh Academy will provide students with individualized Career Technical Education (CTE) programming in the following industries: 

  • Construction – including home construction and repair and building tiny homes for veterans. 
  • Small Engine/Bicycle Repair
  • Graphics 

Additionally, other new facilities at the Walsh Academy include: 

  • Metals Lab
  • Podcast Studio
  • Medical/ Health Lab
  • Culinary Lab Garden/ Greenhouse
  • Driver’s Education

The Academy is also working on developing a three-way partnership with contractors and union organizations who are helping develop course curricula and providing recommendations on the facilities and equipment needed to prepare students for success in apprenticeships, additional technical training or higher education and on-the-job. 

“There is a high demand for skilled trade people. CISCO‘s partnership with Walsh Academy allows us to explore an untapped opportunity to educate and prepare these high school students – burdened with severe economic and social challenges, for career opportunities in the union construction industry. CISCO is proud to provide support to prepare these high school students for union apprenticeship programs, which lead to career opportunities with union construction contractors and a path to the middle class,” said Dan Allen, Construction Industry Service Corporation executive director. “

Students who attend Jen School have one or more significant challenges such as specific learning disability, intellectual disability, autism or health impairment. Many of these students experienced childhood trauma such as abuse, neglect and abandonment. Jen School aims to offer a pathway for these students who are unable to succeed in their home schools. The new Walsh Academy will eventually accommodate 120 students – 82% more than today and increase its academic classrooms from eight to 12. Additionally, It has an open enrollment policy allowing the students to enter the school at any point. For more information on the new Walsh Academy, please visit www.walshacademy.org.

About Jen School

Maryville Jen School provides specialized academic and vocational opportunities for young men and women experiencing academic, emotional, behavioral or cognitive challenges that can potentially limit their life success. Students are served in uniquely designed classrooms to maximize effectiveness across the continuum of age and disability. Maryville Jen School is an Illinois State Board of Education approved Non-Public Special Education Facility (14-7.02) licensed to serve students ages 10 – 21.

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