[nfbwatlk] Oregon legislature ensures closure of school for the blind (Oregonian 6-10-2009)

Lauren Merryfield lauren1 at catliness.com
Sat Jun 13 22:59:48 UTC 2009

Maybe someone needs to get on this woman's case:
House Education Chairwoman Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, an advocate for 
disabled students, spearheaded efforts to close the school.

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Nightingale, Noel" <Noel.Nightingale at ed.gov>
To: <nfbwatlk at nfbnet.org>
Sent: Friday, June 12, 2009 1:40 PM
Subject: [nfbwatlk] Oregon legislature ensures closure of school for the 
blind (Oregonian 6-10-2009)

> Breaking News Impact - The Oregonian - OregonLive.com
> Vote closes Oregon School for the Blind
> Posted by Betsy Hammond, The Oregonian June 10, 2009 11:59AM
> [http://blog.oregonlive.com/news_impact/2009/06/large_OSBdorm.jpg]<http://blog.oregonlive.com/news_impact/2009/06/OSBdorm.jpg>Thomas 
> Boyd/The OregonianA student climbs the stairs to his dorm room at the 
> Oregon School for the Blind in Salem.
> The Oregon Senate sealed the fate of the state's 135-year-old school for 
> the blind Wednesday, voting 20-8 to close the Salem boarding school this 
> summer and return its students to their local schools.
> The House had already voted to close the school, and Gov. Ted Kulongoski 
> says he will sign the decision into law.
> The 24 students who would have returned to the Oregon School for the Blind 
> this fall, most of whom are ages 16 to 20, will instead attend their local 
> public schools. The bill says they must receive "substantially equivalent" 
> services as those they received at the state school.
> More than $3 million that would otherwise have been spent operating the 
> boarding school will be used to help educate those 24 students and to 
> improve services to the other 800 blind and visually impaired students 
> already being served in their local schools.
> House Education Chairwoman Rep. Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis, an advocate for 
> disabled students, spearheaded efforts to close the school.
> She said the students should be educated in their hometowns and live with 
> their families. She also decried the lack of core academic classes at the 
> state school, which lost its accreditation in the early 1990s. And she 
> said the high cost per student -- more than $125,000 a year -- represented 
> a lack of equity between blind students at the boarding school and those 
> educated in hometown schools.
> The school's physical plant, which includes a dorm, a gym and nine other 
> buildings, is dilapidated, and the state hasn't spent the millions it 
> would take to bring it up to code. Enrollment at the school has dropped to 
> 32 students from its high of 118 in 1964, before the federal government 
> mandated that disabled students be served in the least restrictive setting 
> possible.
> "Closing this school wrenches at your heart ... but I believe in the 
> bottom of my heart that mainstreaming is best for the visually impaired," 
> said Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton.
> Parents, teachers and members of groups that advocate for the blind 
> decried the decision to close the school. They testified how visually 
> impaired students have been poorly served in local schools that 
> areill-equipped to help them -- stories that Gelser said are true.
> Visually impaired students have such specialized learning needs that few 
> school districts can meet their needs, in large part because they lack 
> trained teachers, champions of the school say. Education at the Salem 
> school stretched more than 12 hours a day, with students learning to 
> navigate with a cane and master life skills such as cooking and laundry 
> after classes ended at 3 p.m.
> Most of the students who attend Oregon School for the Blind will be the 
> only blind or visually impaired student in their local school.
> Kathy O'Malley met recently with officials in the North Clackamas School 
> District to discuss their plans to educate her 17-year-old daughter, 
> Kelsey, who had a miserable experience at Clackamas High before 
> transferring to the Oregon School for the Blind two years ago.
> O'Malley says she doesn't trust their assurances that things will be 
> better this time for Kelsey, who has cognitive delays, limited speech and 
> a genetic disorder that caused her to lose her peripheral vision beginning 
> when she was 8.
> O'Malley says she will push for Kelsey to attend the state school for the 
> blind in Washington, where space is limited, or in Idaho. The district 
> would have to pay for her education at the Idaho school plus weekly plane 
> trips home from the school to match the weekends she spends at home now, 
> she said.
> Clackamas High officials want to place her in a special education 
> classroom with a teacher who has never taught a visually impaired student 
> and where the other students all can see fine, O'Malley says. They say the 
> teacher will get more coaching and support from an expert teacher of the 
> visually impaired, thanks to the $3 million in new funding.
> But O'Malley said she and other parents with children at the School for 
> the Blind find it "obvious that, contrary to how everybody in Salem thinks 
> this is miraculously going to work out, that the districts remain 
> clueless.
> "Our kids will get lost in the shuffle. They will be sent back to the same 
> school districts that were not able to provide the services for them," she 
> said.
> -- Betsy Hammond; 
> betsyhammond at news.oregonian.com<mailto:betsyhammond at news.oregonian.com>
> (c)2009 Oregon Live LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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