Committee recommends Iowa Braille School remain as regional site - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Committee recommends Iowa Braille School remain as regional site

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VINTON (KWWL) -

The halls inside the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton have been quiet for more than a year.

The school's residential program, which once housed hundreds, was forced to close in 2011 after enrollment dipped into the single digits.

Now only administrators remain on campus.

"With Internet and better technology at the local school districts, parents are wanting to keep their children with them," said Donald Boddicker, director of business operations for the school.

The regents appointed a state committee to identify new efficiencies to the system that serves blind and deaf students.

Monday night, a committee proposed a new regional system.

Under the recommendation the school in Vinton will be saved  but will now serve blind and deaf students only within a one hundred mile region.

There are no plans to reinstate the school's residential program.

Four other sites in the state will perform the same function within their particular area.

Stephanie Hunolt attended the school in the late 1980's.  She supports the committee's recommendation, believing that a new system would allow students in rural school districts better access to traveling teachers and materials

"I believe the children will be served better now than they were," she said. 

Many former students see flaws in the proposal, still believing the best way to accommodate blind and deaf students is with a residential program that lets them live and learn among children experiencing similar challenges.

"As far as I'm concerned the school itself is dead.  It's over.  They've chosen to put these kids in a public school system," said John Hamling.  He and his wife attended the braille school in the 1950's.

The proposal will cost $3.2 million more than the current system to serve the blind and deaf population.  The cost will be shared by local agencies throughout the state including school districts.

The school for the deaf in Council Bluffs will continue to run its residential program.

The Board of Regents isn't expected to vote on the recommendation before February.

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