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New kind of gifted school to open

Mollie Aeder far left 14 with her two sisters. | Provided phofrom family

Mollie Aeder, far left, 14, with her two sisters. | Provided photo from the family

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Updated: January 23, 2013 6:09AM

Like most parents of teens who attend school out of state, Jennifer Levine is looking forward to her daughter, Mollie Aeder, coming home for the holidays.

Mollie isn’t like most teens, however. The 14-year-old, who has dyslexia, attends a boarding high school in Michigan for gifted teens who learn differently.

There wasn’t any such school close to home for Mollie to attend.

But next fall that will change. She will attend Chicago’s new Wolcott School at 524 N. Wolcott, which welcomes its first classes of freshmen and sophomores September 2013.

“She is being incredibly well-served where she is. But I would love to have my child home,” said her mother, of Lincoln Park.

The new private, nonprofit school, housed in the former Union League Club for Boys in Ukrainian Village, took three years and an $8 million fund-raising campaign.

It’s supported by some of Chicago’s most prominent philanthropists and experts in specialized education.

Donors include real estate mogul Fred Latsko and Eve Tyree, widow of the late James Tyree, former owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, for whom a resource center in the school will be named.

Levine, a mother of four, and husband Jeff Aeder, co-founder of Chicago-based JDI Realty, had lived the struggle of so many parents of children like Mollie to obtain needed customized education. Mollie was identified dyslexic by first grade.

“We noticed reading wasn’t coming in as reading typically comes in for kids. While she could participate in conversations, social life, and the interactive components of class, the more text-driven pieces were a challenge,” Levine said.

Subsequent educational testing started a journey that would take Mollie from school to school — Hyde Park Day for elementary school, Roycemore in Evanston for middle school — then out of state.

“It was heart-wrenching to send her so far away to get what she needed,” Levine said. “There were incredibly successful schools in other major cities for kids who needed their education delivered differently. And it just struck my husband and I as very unfortunate that that sort of resource didn’t exist in Chicago.”

An estimated one in five children suffer from language-based learning disabilities — which can be misidentified or the students left behind or failing in public schools lacking resources. A small school, Wolcott, will serve 160 kids.

“We’re talking about high functioning students who have challenges in academic areas such as written language, reading or math,” said Miriam Pike, who is taking Wolcott’s reins after 31 years with Deerfield High School, most recently chair of its special ed department.

“We’re able to design instruction to help these students use techniques to access curriculum in a way that works for them,” Pike said.

Tuition at the school will be $37,500, with tuition assistance available. For more information,

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