Blind World Magazine

Future Of School for the Blind Remains Uncertain.

December 8, 2005.
KWWL - Waterloo,IA,USA.

State officials met to discuss if the Iowa's only school for the blind should be closed. In Johnston on Wednesday, officials discussed the future of The Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton.

Jeremy Ellis of Belle Plaine says most public schools don't have the specialized equipment that makes it easier for him to learn. "Like in math class to see the overhead and stuff I have this machine. I'll look up on the wall to see what it is." Jeremy is legally blind and attends the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School. The school serves more than 500 blind or visually impaired children attending public schools across the state. But only 34 students actually attend the Iowa Braille School. They live on-campus during the week, then they're bussed home on weekends.

The school costs more than four million dollars each year to operate. That's about $130,000 per student. It's also one big reason why a task force is meeting to decide if this taxpayer money can be better spent elsewhere.

Representatives from the Iowa Board of Regents, Board of Education and Department For The Blind met with teachers, parents, and blind students to brainstorm ways to improve the way blind children are educated in Iowa. Mary Ellen Becker with the Iowa Board of Regents says, "We're trying to figure out what's best for the future and how do we make sure the larger group of 500 students around the state get equally high quality programs."

Some possibilities:

1. Keep the school open but expand its uses, possibly to students with autism and other behavior disorders.

2. Shut down the Braille School and develop an outreach program with resource centers located across the state.

3. Shut down the school, but provide programs by partnering with the University of Iowa and UNI. Or, merge the Braille School with the School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs.

Leah Morrison is the mother of a blind student and says, "Are you saying to us that deaf students are entitled to a highly specialized education but blind students aren't? I would dare say that possibly looks like discrimination."

Parents say they're under-represented in decision-making. They say the Vinton school expenses are worth it and their children will suffer if forced into public schools.

Karla Vansice is also the mother of a blind student and says, "When we put them on a respirator when they were born, we made a commitment to take care of them the best we can. We can't years later say, oops, too expensive."

End of article.

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