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Marine’s The Nurture School Fills Niche For Elementary Students

Stephanie Malench

MARINE — After months of anticipation, The Nurture School finally opened its doors to students in October of this year at 302 W. Division St. in Marine. The Nurture School is directed by its mission to provide an academic environment for students with special needs that support their individual strengths and learning styles, while utilizing empirically based methodology to create life-long learners through active participation between the student’s home, school, and community.

The Nurture School serves students in grades Kindergarten through fifth who have individualized education plans (IEPs) and are recommended by their public or private school administration because they cannot meet the student’s needs. Students attend The Nurture School until their home school IEP team feels their needs can be met in the public or private school.

Although enrollment is still in the single digits, The Nurture School is licensed for up to 30 students with a maximum class size of 10 students.

The teachers’ work focuses on building positive relationships and fostering healthy peer interactions while providing students choices in what they learn when during the school day.

The school is approved by the State of Illinois Department of Education for students with:

  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Speech or language impairments
  • Emotional disabilities
  • Other health impairments such as ADHD
  • Developmental delays
  • Autism
  • Aspergers

The curriculum is customized for each individual student using the following curriculum or learning methods:

  • Envision and Reveal Math
  • Wonders and Journeys Reading
  • Leveled Readers
  • Hands on science
  • Social studies projects
  • AIM Social Emotional
  • Cognitive Basted Therapy  (CBT) principles integrated.

According to Carmen Loemker, Director of The Nurture School, the only other resource for children in Kindergarten through 5th grade is the Menta Academy in Belleville, which works with students in grades Kindergarten through 12th.

Students who have similar needs in Madison County attend the Madison County Center for Educational Opportunities in Troy for grades 6-12.

The physical environment for the school is minimalist, with plain, tan walls adorned only with a couple historical photos left over from Marine Diner. There is no loose furniture that could be thrown by a student. Seats are soft with metal and wood shelves on a couple of walls. Natural light from the plentiful windows is used as much as possible.

Support services are contracted through Counselors Associates and include counseling, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and emergent learning services.

The school day is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. with breakfast and lunch provided. Currently parents have to drop off and pick up the students, but bus transportation will hopefully be provided by the students’ home districts in the future.

Behavioral consulting services are also available for parents and caregivers who are looking to support their children better at home. Enrollment in the school is not necessary to receive services.

Loemker said she made the decision to open The Nurture School “because the Metro East had very few options for elementary students in need of a therapeutic day school and I believe my experience working with thousands of students over 25 years could benefit students who need something different from tradition public school special education settings.”

To learn more, call (618)249-1267 or go to

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