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May 29, 2005

Take a hike

From: Staunton News Leader(Editorial) - Staunton,VA,USA - May 29, 2005


If you live in Staunton, you ought to care about the future of the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind that has called Staunton its home since 1839. That future is in jeopardy. Last year, a study group recommended closing the VSDB campuses in Staunton and Hampton. In their place, the state (in other words, us taxpayers) should build a new, centrally located school at an estimated cost of $66 million — a price tag which goes up every day, thanks to inflation and the rising cost of building materials.

To anyone but a bureaucrat accustomed to spending other's money as if it was inexhaustible, the answer is clear: Renovate the historic and beautiful Staunton VSDB campus and consolidate the schools here.

Ironically, the biggest task we face in getting the state to take this simple step is getting officials to seethe wisdom of this and to listento common sense.

Staunton, let's face it, is as close to "central" as we're going to get. Real estate costs a fortune in Charlottesville or Richmond — the most central locations in triangular Virginia. Build anywhere else, and the school will be in the boondocks — not a very realistic or enriching cultural experience. Isolation would also appear to clash with a curriculum that seeks to help its students adjust to life in frenetic sight-and-hearing-enabled urban and suburban environments. While we can imagine that a multi-million dollar facility in a sylvan setting would appeal to ivory tower types, we can't see them making much of a difference in the students' lives — and that's all that matters in education.

Instead of building a new school, the focus should be on renovating the historic and beautiful Staunton VSDB campus. First consideration should be given to the price tag. The cost of renovating VSDB Staunton is estimated to be about $25 million, almost one-third less than the cost of building a new school. Cost should not be the only consideration, however. As we have said before, abandoning VSDB Staunton would be like closing the University of Virginia or the College of William and Mary because they have too many old buildings. The architecture on the campus of VSDB Staunton compares favorably with those august institutions of higher learning. That kind of Ivy League-ish ambience ought to be enough to warm the cockles of any ivory tower type's heart. And, as we have also said many times, there is the safe, yet realistic presence of the city of Staunton to use as a life laboratory.

This Friday (unless it rains), Historic Staunton Foundation and VSDB Staunton will host a walking tour of the campus. If the weather is good, be at VSDB's main building off Kalorama Street at 11. Tour the campus, take mental notes of the beauty of the setting and its architecture and the value of what is being taught there.

Then, when you have experienced VSDB for yourself, do something: Write local, state and federal lawmakers and urge them to save VSDB Staunton, not just for our pocketbooks but for our souls.

Originally published May 29, 2005

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