Under the Dome

Legislators like Atkinson's residential school plan

State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson got some pats on the back for her plan to keep all three state residential schools open from the same legislators who told her department to pick one to close. 

In their budget, legislators told the state Department of Public Instruction to come up with a plan to close one of the three residential schools for disabled children and consolidate services to save about $5 million. 

The state runs two schools for deaf students, one in Wilson and one in Morganton, and the Governor Morehead School for the Blind in Raleigh. 

As DPI considered its options, groups of legislators wrote letters and spoke at public hearings asking that the school in their region be spared. 

Atkinson came up with a plan, which she made public late last year and presented to legislators today, to lease space at the schools while leaving all three open. The Governor Morehead School would be a satellite of the Wilson school, but continue to enroll students. 

Wake County Superintendent Tony Tata has been talking to DPI about using space on the Morehead campus. Tata said today that he'd like to put 300 students there in the coming school year. 

"We need space," Tata said. "We have capacity issues throughout Wake County."

State Sen. Richard Stevens, a Cary Republican and a chief budget writer, congratulated Atkinson for her work. 

"This is not an easy assignment," he said. "We saw at budget time a program that had been reduced in numbers significantly over the years and a program that had increased in cost to a point where it was in excess of $100,000 per student. At the same time, a number of children needing very specialized services."

Stevens thanked Atkinson for "coming back with a solution that I believe we can all work towards now...I think we're headed in the right direction." 

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