WHO IS WEST40:
West40 is an Intermediate Service Center based in Hillside, serving 38 school districts and three co-ops in West Cook County. We provide student-success-centric support, including various student advocacy programs such as a Regional Safe School, a remote school and a credit-recovery programs. Because schools play an essential role in students’ growth, we also work and walk alongside educators and other school administrators by providing progressive support through professional learning, licensure, school compliance, school safety, and more. At West40, we believe every kid deserves a chance for success, and it is in the hands of us all to make sure they can become thriving citizens of our communities.
WHAT IS WEST40’S VISION FOR THE FORMER ST. JOSEPH’S HIGH SCHOOL:
West40 Intermediate Service Center #2 is excited about our purchase of St. Joseph High School in Westchester. We plan to produce a state-of-the-art learning facility campus, blend in with the community, and be a good community neighbor. The campus will be a place for youth in need, including foster students and those with social-emotional concerns, which supports the biggest needs of state agencies such as the Department of Children and Family Services and the Department of Human Services. We envision providing mental health services for students in support of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s commitment to providing educational and behavioral health services to youth in need. There will be offices for our community connections and resource services teams. The campus will have a high ratio of adults to kids.
In addition to a learning facility, the renovated campus will have housing for up to 40 children with a huge amount of green space in the north lot. We will remove the north building and turn it into a community garden and a walking trail for the public. We want to be part of the community. We want to be excellent neighbors in a wonderful community.
HOW IS WEST40 CONFIDENT THAT IT CAN TRANSFORM KIDS’ LIVES:
Recognized by the State of Illinois, West40 has become a model for transforming youth in need into thriving community citizens. West40 has formed strong partnerships with dozens of area school districts to provide support for students. In addition, West40 has run a school for 25 years using restorative practices, which strengthen relationships and social connections between individuals so kids can succeed in school and beyond. Kids who’ve been through significant trauma need safe and restorative spaces, such as outdoor green spaces, a welcoming atmosphere, modern classrooms, and comfortable living spaces. If a child needs space, they will have space to help them grow. West40 is honored to support the state’s Children’s Behavioral Health Transformation Initiative. The goal of the Initiative is to transform statewide systems to provide clear, consistent, and comprehensive guidance to families seeking mental health services for children.
To learn more about how we transformed lives, read some of our stories.
HOW WILL WEST40 MAINTAIN ST. JOSEPH’S LEGACY:
We plan to keep the St. Joseph lettering on the building. We will keep the chapel area in the front of the property and keep the name on the front. The footprint will stay the same. It will be West40 operating at St. Joseph.
DOES WEST40 CURRENTLY HAVE RESIDENTIAL SETTINGS IN OTHER AREAS:
West40 is the fiscal agent for Philip J. Rock Center in Glen Ellyn, the only publicly funded residential school for students who are deaf-blind in the country. The students are from all over the state and live at this location 24/7, except during breaks when some go home to see their families.
HOW DID THE PURCHASE TRANSPIRE:
The Governor’s office, Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS), and West40 have been looking for a campus where students can live and attend school. St. Joseph High School was the solution. Like a home purchase, St. Joseph was a private sale.
WHAT TYPES OF KIDS WILL BE AT THIS SCHOOL:
Students living on-site and going to the school are foster kids who have been through trauma.
HOW DO WE HELP STUDENTS ASSIMILATE BACK INTO THE COMMUNITY:
Our model is that as a student is independent enough to return to their home school, we ensure that they have a West40 advocate ready to meet them every day, starting with their first day. We also regularly check in with our students weekly to ensure they are mentally and emotionally prepared for academic performance.
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE TRES AND THE GREEN SPACE:
We are still in the planning phase and have had discussions that have explored using the green space as a shared learning space, such as an outdoor auditorium or an outdoor classroom. We will have roughly 20 acres of green space and the trees will remain.
HOW DO YOU MEASURE SUCCESS:
There will be lots of measures as we are wrapping around services.
ARE THERE PLANS FOR RELIGIOUS SCHOOLING OR TRAINING:
No – Separation of Church and State. However, there may be opportunities for children to participate or practice their faith.
WHAT TYPES OF STRUCTURED PROGRAMS WILL THERE BE:
While we are not sure just yet, the programs will be determined by the students we are going to be serving. We plan to have a wide variety of programs based on student needs and interests.
WHERE ARE THE KIDS CURRENTLY LIVING:
Most don’t have a place to live now.
WHAT DO THE APARTMENTS LOOK LIKE:
They are all about the same. Small but sufficient.
IS A YEAR LONG ENOUGH TO REHABILITATE A CHILD:
That will depend on each individual student.
WILL 40 KIDS ALL SHOW UP AT ONCE OR WILL IT BE GRADUAL:
WHAT IF STUDENTS GET IN TROUBLE AT HOME SCHOOL AND NEED TO RETURN:
We will do whatever it takes to help students succeed. We will welcome them home and help them work toward their goals.
WILL OUR TAXES GO UP:
Taxes will not go up due to the operations of this campus. Home values may improve over time, but tax rates will not go up attributable to our operations.
HOW WILL YOU MAKE SURE THE FACILITY IS SAFE FOR STUDENTS & NEIGHBORS:
West40 is serving kids in a welcoming space where they can reclaim their youth. These are kids who don’t have homes and need a supportive space. How we staff the space will be with an eye towards keeping kids contained and safe. West40 has run a school for 25 years and our programming has proven successful in avoiding violence and disruptive acts. The plan is to have at least one social worker or therapist on campus 24/7. We avoid issues through a blanket of support. West40 believes that if you have good classroom management programming, you do not have to be focused on discipline. Our current programming is built on supportive and restorative behavioral management. We do not foresee security guards on site, but we envision a safe and secure campus.
IS THIS GOING TO AFFECT MY PROPERTY VALUE:
Compared to what the property is today, the changes will be value-added to your property. We are removing the existing northern building and replacing it with green space that includes a community garden and a walking trail for the public. There will also be a new parking lot.
WILL THIS INCREASE TRAFFIC IN THE AREA:
The traffic will be considerably less than when St. Joseph High School was open, due in part to students not driving to school, fewer trucks making deliveries than when the high school was open, and only around 40 staff members and visiting doctors who drive to the campus. The Village of Westchester may also use a portion of the property.
HOW CAN THIS BENEFIT THE VILLAGE AND THE RESIDENTS:
We don’t see ourselves as an isolated bubble. We see ourselves as a valuable piece of the community. The public will have access to our green space, gymnasium and auditorium. We foresee the possibility of allowing the park district to use our facilities and envision the use of the space for community events or sports activities.
HOW WILL THIS BE FUNDED:
The construction and future operating costs will be fully state-funded.
ARE ANY STRINGS ATTACHED TO THE STATE’S FUNDING OF WEST40:
A commitment to remain in service for 5 years.
HOW DO THE OPERATIONAL COSTS CONTINUE AFTER FIVE YEARS:
After five years, programming will be funded with contractual service with State Agencies.
HOW DOES THE STATE’S GRANT FUNDING FOR WEST40 WORK:
We will be applying for grants to assist with the capital improvements. Programming will be funded with contractual service with State Agencies.
WHY DID WEST40 SELECT THIS LOCATION:
It is a large property that supports the vision of creating a safe, state-of-the-art campus with housing and outdoor space. Westchester is one of the communities in the West40 region. We have established programs that support kids throughout the West40 Region.
WILL THE KIDS ALWAYS REMAIN AT THE LOCATION:
Eventually, when the students are ready, we would like to give them opportunities to attend schools, including colleges around the West40 region (West Cook County).
WHAT IS THE TIMELINE OF CONSTRUCTION AND OPENING:
Renovation started in Spring 2023. As of October 2023, West40 has agreed to go through the Village of Westchester’s official zoning process and there is no firm construction timeline or anticipated opening date as of yet. Early construction includes roof repair, window replacement, and asbestos abatement.
HOW MANY STUDENTS WILL BE AT ST. JOSEPH:
There will be max of 40 residential students at a time.
IS THERE A CONTRACT THAT SAYS “ONLY WEST40 AREA STUDENTS”:
No. These students could be from all over the state But there will be no more than 40 kids at St. Joseph at any given time.
WHY DOES WEST40 NEED 30 ACRES OF SPACE TO SUPPORT 40 KIDS:
We are applying the proven model we have used at our Safe School for 25 years, which includes giving the students various respectful and safe spaces to choose from to have private conversations with their trusted adults at any time of the day. It is these connections that have made a significant contribution to students’ performance at school.
WHAT ARE THE PLANS IF ZONING FOR THE RESIDENTIAL SECTION DOES NOT GO THROUGH:
The space is zoned R1, allowing public and parochial schools. The current ordinance does not specify what kind of school, such as a technical or residential school. Funded by the state, the school will be a public school that provides residential boarding. We have been in conversations with the village on zoning. We envision that residency will begin in the second half of 2024.
WHAT TYPE OF SECURITY WILL BE ON SITE:
Security cameras and 20 motion detectors have been installed. Once the school is open, the front entrance on Cermak will be of a typical school, with a staffed welcome center that will buzz in visitors. All other doors will be secured and accessible by West40-issued key cards.
WILL THERE BE A FENCE ON THE PERIMETER:
Other than the residential building, this is currently not in the plan.
WHO WILL BE WATCHING THE KIDS OVERNIGHT:
Full time staff.
WILL THE STUDENTS BE COMING AND GOING FREELY:
No. Students will be allowed to leave the campus on supervised trips.
WHERE WILL THE KIDS LIVE ONCE THEY ARE RELEASED TO OTHER SCHOOLS?We will work with our partner state agencies to help the students move to the next most appropriate step. It will be different for each child.
DOES WEST40 WORK YEAR-ROUND:
Yes, and this program will as well – 24/7/365
WILL THIS IMPACT INCOME TAXES:
No – there is no way that this project will impact Income Tax.