Asked by the legislature to consolidate schools for blind and deaf students, state Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson has come up with a plan that would keep all three residential schools open while combining administrative jobs for two of them. The plan includes bringing in revenue by leasing space on the campuses.
The three schools serve a total of about 200 students, and the legislature was looking to save about $5.5 million a year by closing one of them and transferring its students. Each of the schools has ardent backers who argued vociferously for a favorite.
Legislative reactions to DPI's range from slightly irritated, ("It appears they didn't want to make the tough decision and kicked it back to us," said Rep. Mitch Gillespie of McDowell County) to pleased ("Sounds like a very positive step to me," said Sen. Neal Hunt of Wake County.)
Gov. Bev Perdue said in a statement that Republicans shouldn't be looking to close a school at all.
“The Republican budget is full of extreme, short-sighted and unnecessary cuts to education," she said. "It’s hard to understand in North Carolina why the General Assembly pitted deaf children against blind children in a fight to keep their school open. North Carolina must find ways to reduce spending, but our future demands that we also make investments in our people. Our constitution guarantees a quality education for all, and that includes deaf and blind children.”
UPDATE: Democratic U.S. Rep. G.K. Butterfield praised the decision to keep open the Eastern North Carolina School for the Deaf.
He and Republican U.S. Rep. Walter Jones wrote DPI last month supporting the Wilson school.
Butterfield said today all the schools should be supported.
"Each of these institutions are essential to their communities and the population they serve," Butterfield said in a statement.
And, Wake Superintendent Tony Tata told school board members today that he's been talking with the state Department of Public Instruction for the past two months about leasing part of the Governor Morehead School campus, staff writer T. Keung Hui reports.
Tata said it could be a "win-win scenario" for both Wake and the visually impaired students.Tata said there's no agreement yet, but he'll present it to the board when it's ready.