Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Which school to close?

My husband just told me that finally an article was published in the Washington Post about Virginia's problem with its two Schools for the Deaf and Blind.
My stepson goes to the school in Hampton, which serves mainly students that have another disability besides, in our case, blindness. Hence the name: The Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind and Multi-Disabled in Hampton!
The other school in Staunton, Virginia mainly serves students with "only" one disability, which makes it more academically focused than Hampton.
Staunton graduates are expected to go to college or work. About half of Hampton graduates go to work, while the rest move into the care of local agencies or group homes.

The problem is, that Virginia does not have enough money to keep both schools open, so they don't know which school to close.
Some indicate that Hampton has the worse position because it mainly serves African-American students, which I disagree with, not only because my stepson is white but also because I have been to both schools and could clearly see that Staunton couldn't help my stepson in terms of his needs concerning independent living. Staunton refused to take my stepson as a student and send us to Hampton.

So, my question is, how can those two schools be combined? The students should still be separated because of their different needs.

Of course then they have these smart educators that say we don't need any of those schools because:
Federal law requires schools to provide access to children with disabilities. Only if teachers and parents agree that the local system cannot give a child an appropriate education can they consider outside placements.

This has caused some educators from Virginia school districts to say:
Rarely have we made that recommendation," said Billy Ritter, vision specialist for Prince William schools, which sent three of its 188 hearing and visually impaired students to Staunton last year and one to Hampton. "It's both that we're very confident in services for our children and we feel that if students are going to live and function in a community, they should live in that community."

Fairfax County sent three of its 740 hearing or visually impaired students to Staunton last year and seven to Hampton. Those who stay home have a range of options, including classes taught by special teachers, interpreters to accompany them to classes and classes taught in sign language.

Well, that is bulls**t, because how in the world is a disabled child supposed to learn how to live independently, if he or she is still going home at the end of the day where mommy and daddy are making dinner and washing the closes and helping them bathe? Residential schools are the best possibility in those cases.
Now, that argument could mean that Staunton the really doesn't need to be open because those kids know all those things. They are "only" there to be together with other kids alike, which is very important too.

Ideally, both schools should stay open and keep servicing and teaching and teaching both kids, but evidently that is impossible.

I guess, my only concern is that once one school is closed or even both and a new one built, it will be harder for my stepson and his peers to adjust to that new school or even worse that new school simply would not be able to serve them anymore because they are too disabled. Luckily he is old enough to where other options might be available but this is the first time that he has improved so much and seems to be able to be independent, or at least without parents, in the future.

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