Blind World Magazine

S4:07 PM 4/28/2006 tate isn't ready to close School for the Deaf and Blind until alternative delivery systems are created.

Times News, Twin Falls Idaho USA.
Tuesday, April 04, 2006.

State legislators and education officials chose not to pull the trigger on the Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind. But the chamber is still loaded in regard to the future of the Gooding campus.

The threat to close the ISDB campus in Gooding is legitimate, and to a certain degree, inevitable. As the education delivery system changes for sensory-impaired students, state leaders must prepare Idaho to adapt. That kind of reform is sitting at Idaho's doorstep with the ISDB.

Last October, the Office of Performance Evaluations released a new study urging the state to adapt the school or close it. In December, the State Board followed up with its own 10 recommendations for education of the sensory impaired, including key elements of splitting deaf and blind services, regional programs over a central campus, curriculum and teacher pay structure.

Those points led to another legislative subcommittee study for enrollment and funding issues at ISDB. Under the direction of the Joint Finance Appropriation Committee, Reps. Margaret Henbest, D-Boise, Patti Anne Lodge, R-Huston, and Kathy Skippen, R-Emmett, followed previous studies and concluded that declining enrollment and changing systems will force imminent changes at ISDB.

Today, only about 75 students are enrolled in courses while living on the Gooding campus. The school has about 800 students receiving services through the outreach program.

That outreach is expected to continue, but local school districts will be hesitant to shoulder the largest portions of that transition.

And that is just one reason why the state is wisely backing away from an aggressive timetable for closing the school. The Gooding campus may be obsolete by most current delivery systems, but until Idaho has an improved system in place for deaf and blind students, closure won't help students very much.

So the coming two years should give the state enough time to develop necessary pilot programs that match the need. The State Board will announce a working group in coming weeks to implement its own recommendations of study. Some of the best ideas to come out of the various committees include:

* Regionalized centers -- Continued growth toward urban areas will require the state to keep enhancing the regional models. The legislative subcomittee idea for five locations may even be a way to preserve use of the Gooding facility.

* Boosting pay -- Harvey Lyter, interim superintendent for ISDB, noted last year how retaining employees is a crucial key. Providing a more beneficial package of pay for these unique educators would go a long way to that goal.

* Splitting the programs -- State officials now question whether deaf/hearing impaired students and the blind/visually impaired students should be split. The separate needs should be carefully studied, but the idea has some validity.

* Improved screenings -- Lyter also pointed out that the laws that determine eligibility standards for deaf and blind students need more medical validity. An improved screening program could be a much more effective way to assure it.

Our view: The state isn't ready to close Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind until alternative delivery systems are created.

End of article.

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