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June 29, 2005

Deaf school's dorm might be closed

From: Sioux Falls Argus Leader, SD - Jun 29, 2005

Associated Press

Published: 06/29/05

Closing the South Dakota School for the Deaf's only dormitory would free up money for programs and help the school meet future needs of students and their families, officials said Tuesday.

Because of changes in deaf education and more frequent use of cochlear implants, fewer children are staying in the school's dorm, said Tad Perry, executive director for the regents, who oversee the Sioux Falls school.

Enrollment projections show six students likely would live in the dorm during the next fiscal year, down three from the current year.

"There other are ways to accommodate the handful (of students) who would need residential services," said Perry, who will recommend closing the dorm at a regents meeting Thursday in Aberdeen.

Students from towns outside Sioux Falls who need a place to live would be placed with foster families, Perry said. The student's home school district would be responsible for setting up those accommodations.

"We thought it was better to let the school districts make the appropriate arrangements and not try to preserve a residential facility for such a small number of students," he said.

As more students with cochlear implants attend the school, the need for staff and programs in that area has increased, Perry said. The surgically implanted devices provide an artificial sensation of hearing and that leads many users to develop speech.

Some of the money now spent to maintain the dorm could be shifted to programs for students with cochlear devices as well as the school's traditional sign-language programs, Perry said.

During the past budget year, $231,000 was allotted for the dormitory, according to a regents report.

The proposal to close the dorm came from school officials and has been part of an ongoing discussion about the future of the school, Perry said.

Maureen Schloss, school superintendent, said parents were told a year ago about plans to close the dorm. Fewer families want a dorm setting for their children and have decided to move into Sioux Falls so their child can attend SDSD or have opted for some other kind of program, she said.

"We're simply looking at a dwindling number," Schloss said.

The dorm will be closed this fall if regents approve the plan, she said.

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