Education

State could close school for blind in Raleigh

Posted September 28, 2011

— In public school, Wenisha Richardson felt disregarded. 

"I was the outcast. I sat in the back of the class," Richardson said. "I was that kid sitting in the back of the classroom that couldn't read." 

But things changed when she started attending the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. 

On Wednesday, Richardson and other students pleaded to keep the state's only school for the blind open during a public hearing in downtown Raleigh. 

State budget cuts mandate that next July, one of three schools for the visually and hearing impaired will close. The other schools in danger are the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson and the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton.

Services for the 220 students who attend the residential schools will be consolidated at the remaining two schools.

"It is painful to think that one of the schools could close. It is unfortunate we have reached this point in history in North Carolina. But we certainly want to ensure we can keep this one as it is the only one serving the visually impaired population," Morehead graduate James Benton said Wednesday.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker spoke in support of the Morehead School for the Blind during the hearing. He cited the school's closed-off campus, access to state services for the blind and deaf, central location in the state and access to transportation systems.

Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh Students rally to keep state blind school open

Talk of closing or merging the schools to save money has arisen during budget shortfalls as far back as 2001, but so far, spirited support from students and families has helped keep them open. Last year, the schools cut costs by $1 million, including cutting pay, having students return later from weekends at home and dropping charter bus services.

Students at whichever school is closed could attend one of the two remaining schools or return to their home county's public school system.

Gary Farmer, a former dean of students at the Wilson school, sits on the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction committee that will decide which school to close by Jan. 15.

"The Eastern school could easily absorb the educational program for the blind," Farmer said Wednesday.

Supporters for all the schools have argued that they are located where the students are most comfortable. Many of the students have other special needs and disabilities and attend the schools for the deaf and blind because they had a difficult time succeeding in their local school district.

Morehead student Cassidy Hooper said public school did not have the resources she needed.

"I did not want to have an education where I could not write or read anything by myself," Hooper said.

Closing and consolidating of the schools could increase class sizes and travel time for dozens of students.

Sandy Turner, the president of the North Carolina School for the Deaf Foundation called on legislators to keep the schools open. 

"The services offered on these campuses cannot be duplicated in public schools," Turner said in a statement. "It is time for the hearing and the sighted citizens o North Carolina to stand shoulder to shoulder with our deaf and blind citizens and insist that funding these residential schools continues." 

The public can submit comments online until Sept. 30.

Public hearings have been held in Wilson and Morganton over the past two weeks.

229 Comments

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  • Fireflies Rock Sep 29, 2:08 p.m.

    I'm horrified that the state would even consider closing ANY of these schools. Certainly the funds can be found to keep these kid's school available. Come on, have a heart, NC!

  • kmanc4s Sep 29, 2:00 p.m.

    The biggest crime here is that the Government of NC has allowed our State to get in the position of needing to close one of these schools. The Republican Legislature should be tarred and feathered for putting the closure of these institutions as a pawn in budget cuts.

  • hooper357 Sep 29, 1:52 p.m.

    To earlandannb, exactly how are the Blind and deaf kids going to learn from each other. The blind students will not be able to see the deaf students signing and the deaf students will not be able to hear the blind students speaking...

  • auntskid Sep 29, 1:36 p.m.

    earlandannb, Deaf and blind methods of learning are so totally different.. blind learn by touch, such as braille and by hearing. Deaf learn by sight with print.
    Must have their own avenues of learning... teachers that sign for the deaf, and teachers that use braille. All the learning and instruction is opposite of the other.

  • earlandannb Sep 29, 1:23 p.m.

    One more comment. If you have both deaf and blind together could they help each other learn, this may cut down on teachers and would need supervision at times when not at school.

  • gorgon01 Sep 29, 1:16 p.m.

    kids learn to adapt so it is possible for a blind child to attend regular schools, though I don't support that. The part about this that really drives me crazy is that seeing/hearing people don't realize that blind and/or deaf people have their own culture...you can't stick a blind or deaf kid with seeing and hearing kids and expect them to become bff's for life. They have their own language, inside jokes, stories...that is what is at stake here...

  • 82ndAAHeel Sep 29, 12:40 p.m.

    As a high school coach for 15 years I agree with anniemouse. Despite a decrease in pay, cut all extra curricular activity funding to ALL public schools. We Americans love our sports! I guarantee parents and community participants could fine a way to keep these activities going. As a member of parents of visually impaired children organization I am crossing my fingers we can get a class action lawsuit against the state going if GMS is closed. I would expect parents of the school for deaf to do the same. It is amazing that the school for Math and Science or the school for the arts has not even been considered to be on the chopping block. I will stop posting on this topic because my blood pressure keeps rising.

  • versatyle27 Sep 29, 12:30 p.m.

    Funding should be pulled from other state agencies in order to keep the three schools open. These students come to these 3 specialty schools for very specific reasons.....they are not able to excel in their public schools....they have no friends...they don't have the resources/technology....they don't receive the needed services for success...they are not allowed to participate in sports.....they need smaller classes....they need more 1:1 time with teachers.....the residential schools have more support staff.....etc. It would be a disservice to close either of the schools. It so sad that we have to pick and choose which group of students will be slighted. It's one thing for the staff to have to find new jobs and think about relocating their families. The most important factor is the students and the opportunity for them to become successful and independent! Praying that God's will be done!!!!!

  • jimcool59 Sep 29, 12:15 p.m.

    Everyone of these yoyos that are involved should be arested and jailed with no bond.The ones forced to choose which one closes should resign and get a decent and moral job somewhere even if that means picking the cotton out of asprin bottles.

  • lakedogs2 Sep 29, 11:51 a.m.

    Sometimes I wonder if labeling Republican or Democrat is just a way to avoid the issues. I am starting a new coalition, the work-together coalition and the words Democrat and Republican are banned from use. Solutions are welcome. Constructive Criticisms without blame is acceptable.

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