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October 3, 2003

Panel Divided On Fate Of Hampton, Staunton Schools for Deaf & Blind

From: WAVY-TV, VA - Oct 3, 2003

(AP) - A task force studying whether Virginia needs separate schools in Hampton and Staunton for deaf, blind and multi-disabled students could not reach agreement on a proposal.

But members agreed to meet one more time, on Oct. 30, to try to answer the question.

The panel planned to issue a recommendation after an all-day meeting Thursday. When members couldn't reach an agreement, they canceled a series of public hearings scheduled to give their decision a full airing.

The task force, which includes two state senators, parents of students from both schools and education officials, split over two options:

- close the Hampton and Staunton schools and build a state-of-the-art school at a location more centrally located.

- keep both schools open because each serves a different population. The Staunton school handles deaf or blind students. The Hampton school handles children with additional handicaps such as mental retardation or cerebral palsy.

The second option called for the state to modernize and downsize both schools, selling off surplus property and allowing each campus to focus on its particular group of students.

The task force briefly considered sending a recommendation to the Warner administration outlining the two options plus a third one - closing one school and keeping one open - and listing the pros and cons.

Scott Goodman, the State Board of Education member who chairs the group, said that wouldn't be much help to the General Assembly. "The legislature will look at that and say, `We could have tied ourselves up in knots,"' he said.

Before the Oct. 30 hearing, the superintendents of both schools agreed to pool their staffs and flesh out the details of how each campus could be downsized and modernized.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.