Chatham’s ECLC receives $850K in federal funding for facility improvements.

CHATHAM – The Education, Careers and Lifelong Community (ECLC) of New Jersey, a non-profit which provides schooling to special needs children on Lum Avenue, has received an $850,000 grant for necessary structural repairs, Mayor Carolyn Dempsey announced at the Monday, March 11 council meeting.

The ECLC’s need for upgrades was first brought to the attention of the public last March, when Executive Director of the ECLC Peter Petrou delved into necessary fixes in a prepared release. Last April, a grant requesting $4 million for repairs was submitted by Rep. Mikie Sherrill, D-11, for the 2024 fiscal year, and the council has received word that the school will receive $850,000 in federal grant money.

Petrou was present at the council meeting, and gave a few remarks. He noted that engineers had noted that the 100-year-old building has “very strong bones,” but it still needs work. The student population has changed significantly, he said, and the education given today mostly focuses on life skills, and is delivered in a more therapeutic manner.

The grant money will go towards furnishing unfinished space in the school’s basement, converting a storage area at the auditorium to a meeting area, and setting up as many as 10 new therapy rooms for students. The school also hopes to relocate its administrator’s office closer to the main entrance for better school security, and move its nurse’s office to the front of the building.

“What it means to have a facility like ECLC in a community like Chatham – to the parents who are facing the prospect of raising children with intellectual disabilities, I’m a parent, my daughter attended ECLC for a dozen years, and she benefited greatly from that education,” Petrou said. “It’s really terrific to know that we’ll be able to improve the facility to make it better for the next proceeding generations.”

The Lum School was first built in 1920, and the ECLC has been in its current location at 21 Lum Ave. since 1989. One-hundred and seventy-five students attend the school.

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