Oregon Senate votes to close the Oregon School for the Blind.
Article Type: Report
Subject: Blind (Education)
Schools (United States)
Schools (Facility closures)
Pub Date: 08/01/2009
Publication: Name: Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness Publisher: American Foundation for the Blind Audience: Academic Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2009 American Foundation for the Blind ISSN: 0145-482X
Issue: Date: August, 2009 Source Volume: 103 Source Issue: 8
Topic: Event Code: 448 Plant shutdown
Product: Product Code: 6531400 Relocation Management Services NAICS Code: 53139 Other Activities Related to Real Estate SIC Code: 6531 Real estate agents and managers
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States Geographic Code: 1USA United States
Accession Number: 207944193
Full Text: In September 2009, the 135-year-old Oregon School for the Blind, located in Salem, will close its doors. In a 20-8 vote, members of the Oregon State Senate sealed the school's fate, and Governor Ted Kulongoski confirmed that he would sign the bill into law recommending the closure of the school. The effort to close the school was led by the Oregon House of Representatives Education Chair Sara Gelser (a Democrat from Corvallis), who sought to redirect the reported $3.1 million in annual Oregon state tax revenue allocated to the school to instead help educate the state's blind and visually impaired students at their local public schools. According to data attributed to the Oregon Department of Education, the residential school reportedly educated 32 of the state's nearly 900 students who are blind or visually impaired during the 2008-2009 school year. With 47 full-time employees, the operating costs of the school added up to nearly $100,000 per student during that time period, compared with the approximately $20,000 allocated for each visually impaired student who received education and rehabilitation services in a local school. Rather than operate a residential school for a small percentage of the state's blind and visually impaired students, Rep. Gelser argued, "We can provide services to all blind and visually impaired students in their local communit[ies], and we can serve more kids better if we focus on doing that."

The once-accepted practice of relocating students who are blind from their families, hometowns, and local public schools to educate them at residential schools is viewed by many as an outdated model. Senator Fred Girod, a Republican from Stayton, said, "Closing this school wrenches at your heart ... but I believe ... that mainstreaming is best for [students who are] visually impaired." The school's students will be placed in their local public schools, and the bill to close the school requires that the school's former students receive services that are "substantially equivalent" to those they received at the state school.

Parents whose children attended the Oregon School for the Blind expressed doubts that local schools can meet the needs of their children; one mother said it was "obvious that, contrary to how everybody in Salem thinks this is miraculously going to work out, ... the districts remain clueless. Our kids will get lost in the shuffle." For more information, contact: Oregon School for the Blind, 700 Church Street Southeast, Salem, OR 97301; phone: 503-378-3820; web site: . [Information for this piece was taken from the June 10, 2009, article, entitled "Vote closes Oregon School for the Blind," and the April 7, 2009, article, entitled "State could close Oregon School for the Blind this summer," both written by Betsy Hammond and published in The Oregonian.]
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