State to consolidate schools for blind and deaf
Posted November 21, 2011
Raleigh, N.C. — The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction announced its plans Monday to close a school for the blind in Raleigh, but still keep the campus operational as a satellite to the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf in Wilson.
State Superintendent June Atkinson said that students will be minimally impacted by the change. It wasn't clear how staff would be affected.
The Governor Morehead School for the Blind's administration and programs will be consolidated with the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf, but visually impaired students who currently attend the Morehead school will be able to stay at the satellite campus in Raleigh, Atkinson said.
Three residential schools currently serve 220 disabled students in the state. State budget cuts mandated that, by July, one of the three schools had to close.
Gov. Bev Perdue called cuts to education in the Republican-backed budget "extreme, short-sighted and unnecessary" and accused state lawmakers of pitting deaf and blind children against each other in the fight to keep their schools open.
"North Carolina must find ways to reduce spending, but our future demands that we also make investments in our people," she said in a statement. "Our constitution guarantees a quality education for all, and that includes deaf and blind children."
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.
Supporters for both schools, plus the North Carolina School for the Deaf in Morganton, have argued that students should be able to stay where they are most comfortable and that many of them have other special needs and disabilities that made it difficult to have success in their local school districts.