In a partnership between the Friendship Circle of Columbus and the city’s public school district, Ohio’s capital will become the newest city to offer a life-sized mock-up of an American town to help children with special needs learn the life skills necessary to function independently.

Modeled after the LifeTown interactive indoor city operated by the Friendship Circle in Detroit, the LifeTown in Columbus will teach children how to carry out everyday activities, from crossing the street to going to the library or visiting the doctor’s office. While the program will move to its permanent location at the new Lori Schottenstein Chabad Center for a Jewish Tomorrow at the end of the school year, LifeTown’s first home will be at Kent Elementary School.

According to Mary Ey, executive director of educational services and resources for Columbus City Schools, the Friendship Circle – a Chabad-Lubavitch project that pairs teenage volunteers with children with special needs – will rent the elementary school building for all of $1, plus utilities.

LifeTown will serve “as an intermediary step between the classroom and the community,” Ey said of the school district’s children with special needs.

The facility will allow children to apply the skills they’ve learned in the classroom in a simulated community where they will not worry about making mistakes, she added. Between 700 and 800 children are expected to visit LifeTown in the coming year.

Local Friendship Circle director Esther Kaltmann said that school officials’ visit to Detroit convinced them of the value of the project.

“We approached officials at Columbus City Schools, and brought them to Detroit,” said Kaltmann.

Last year, some 3,300 schoolchildren visited the Detroit facility. This spring, the Friendship Circle in Montreal broke ground on their own LifeTown project.

“The work in Montreal and Ohio shows that LifeTown can be replicated around the world,” said Bassie Shemtov, the Detroit-based co-founder of the Friendship Circle, an international network with some 65 branches in the United States, Canada and Australia. “I am excited for both communities, because I know what LifeTown has done for ours.”