District 203’s Connections offers postsecondary option to many students with IEPs

Jeremy Zhao, Print Managing Editor & Head News Editor

From 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 20-year-old Paige Krause participates in mock job interviews and roleplay daily interactions, in addition to keeping up with her academic course load. 

Krause is one of about 70 students currently attending District 203’s Connections Transition Services, a vocational school for District 203 high school graduates ages 18-22 with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) to receive additional training in order to smoothly transition into the workforce. 

“We’re separate from both Naperville Central and North,” Connections principal Keith Langosch said. “[The students] have all met graduation requirements and come here for transition services as a part of their IEP to help them become more independent in the future.” 

Krause graduated from Naperville Central in 2021 and has attended Connections since. For her, high school graduation was the “absolute favorite day of my life.” 

“School isn’t fun for me, and I’ve never thought I’d reach a point where I felt fully safe or happy at school,” Krause said. “But Connections has given me that because there’s no homework, and [while] there’s high expectations, they’re not really hard expectations to follow.” 

Connections has been in their current building on 5th Avenue for the last 10 years and has previously been located at Naperville North and College of DuPage Naperville. 

In addition to learning behavior specialists, speech language pathologists, a psychologist, a social worker, an occupational therapist and a physical therapist, there’s also paraprofessionals who serve as job coaches. 

While students have four different courses they can take—functional academics, independent living skills, social emotional learning and vocational skills—Langosch said the school day looks different for every student. 

“We have some students that are here from 8:30 to 2:30 and other students that are here from just 8:30 to 10,” Langosch said. 

Connections also offers COD Connect, a program for students dually-enrolled at Connections and College of DuPage. Krause, who participated in COD Connect, said she toured campus and learned how to follow college behavior expectations and find classes. 

Because all students have earned their high school diploma, they can leave Connections at any time. 

“I would say a majority of them [stay for four years],” Langosch said. 

To Krause, Connections provides special needs students an opportunity to feel welcomed and involved. 

“No matter your ability, you’re included,” she said. “You’re given the opportunity to learn how to just be a person and independent and happy. Just to be a member of society and be helpful.”