New school breaks ground in Bay Shore

Alan and Ellen Spiegel stand with Senator Owen Alan and Ellen Spiegel stand with Senator Owen Johnson as they watch students from the ACLD Kramer Learning Center participate in a ground breaking ceremony for the construction of The Alan and Ellen Spiegel Children's Center in Bay Shore. (Oct. 25, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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Doctors told Jennifer Wagner her son Dylan would never talk.

Thursday, the 4-year-old with developmental delays spoke like any other boy his age -- a credit, his family said, to his attendance at a school run by the nonprofit Adults and Children with Learning and Developmental Disabilities.

"When he first started [attending the school], he wasn't talking at all," said Wagner, 38, a stay-at-home mom from Lindenhurst, who said doctors doubted he'd ever progress. "Within two months, he won't shut up."

Dylan and his family attended a ceremonial groundbreaking Thursday at the planned site of ACLD's Alan and Ellen Spiegel Children's Center in Bay Shore. The $6 million project is expected to be completed by September, officials said.

The school will serve 108 preschool children -- 76 with developmental disabilities and 32 typically developing children drawn from the Head Start program and the Bay Shore School District's prekindergarten program. It is being constructed on 8.5 acres of land that previously housed the Mark Country Day School at 67 Greenwood Rd.

The school will feature a gymnasium, three outdoor swimming pools and a play area. The local YMCA will run its summer program at the campus, officials said.

"This is a resource for this entire community," said Aaron Liebowitz, executive director of the Bethpage-based ACLD, who said the school will enhance the economic well-being of Bay Shore. "It enriches the entire community. We want to be an organization that will give back."

Founded in 1957, ACLD has operations at 74 locations and employs more than 1,000 staff. The group is also awaiting approval to build a 22,000-square-foot medical center and office building in Oyster Bay.

The namesakes of the children's center -- Alan and Ellen Spiegel of Dix Hills -- spearheaded the fundraising efforts for the project. They have been involved with ACLD since they sought services for their son, now 44 and living in an ACLD-run Huntington group home.

"The children's center is our dream," said Ellen Spiegel. "When he was a little boy, places like this just didn't exist."

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