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December 15, 2004

Oral deaf school finds home in Clermont Co.

From: Cincinnati Enquirer - Cincinnati,OH,USA - Dec 15, 2004

By Sheila McLaughlin
Enquirer staff writer

MONTGOMERY - The voices of children at the area's only oral deaf school on Zig Zag Road will ring out in Clermont County next winter.

After two years of searching for a place to expand, officials at Ohio Valley Voices settled this week on the River Hills Christian Church at 6642 Branch Hill-Guinea Pike in Miami Township.

School officials had earlier crossed the church property off its list of prospects over concerns that a nearby cell-phone tower would interfere with students' cochlear implant devices, which send sound impulses to the brain and help them learn to speak. The school's goal is teaching deaf children to speak so they can be mainstreamed.

Further testing determined the tower wouldn't cause problems, said Jacqueline Jones, Valley Voices development director.

So, the school is forging ahead with a project expected to cost up to $2.5 million and one that will add space, compared to the basement and a house at Montgomery Presbyterian Church where Valley Voices opened in 2000 with a dozen students. The school is raising the money for the project through donations and grants.

Tight quarters caused the school to limit enrollment to 32 students, forcing some kids onto a waiting list. At the same time, Montgomery officials informed the school leaders in October that they would have to leave the Zig Zag Road location late next year because it was meant only as temporary quarters.

Executive Director Maria Sentelik's search for a new site led her to about 50 places that she rejected because they were in industrial or commercial areas that didn't fit the learning environment she envisioned. She also lost her bid for a new building in Sycamore Township this year after neighbors complained the school was too big for the property and would generate too much traffic.

River Hills, which draws predominantly from the Loveland and Milford areas, will continue to hold services and activities at the Branch Hill-Guinea location and will work around renovation and an addition planned by Valley Voices until next December or in January 2006.

That's when River Hills will move to a new church under construction on 23 acres on nearby Price Road.

Jones said the school's move will about triple its size to 15,000 square feet, and allow it to grow by about 15 students. Valley Voices serves 18 school districts.


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