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April 4, 2006

Legislation would save Staunton VSDB

From: Staunton News Leader, VA - Apr 4, 2006

General Assembly proposals await governor's signature

By Christina Murphy/staff

STAUNTON — The years-long debate about where to consolidate the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind could be settled by Monday.

That's how long Gov. Tim Kaine has to decide whether to sign legislation that would make Staunton the state school's only campus.

The latest consolidation bills are two of about 800 passed by the General Assembly that now await Kaine's decision, said Kevin Hall, the governor's press secretary. Kaine has to decide whether to sign, veto or ask for amendments on all of them by April 10, Hall said.

Supporters of the Staunton campus expressed a cautious optimism about the outcome.

"I think the process is moving along nicely and has moved along nicely in the past six months or so. I think we're at a resolution," said Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton.

"Everything I've seen so far is that this thing is moving forward. We're trying to do what's in the best interest of the constituencies of the deaf, blind and multi-disabled, and I think in the final analysis, it'll happen," he said.

VSDB Staunton Superintendent Nancy Armstrong also said things appeared to be moving in a positive direction for her school, but added that the community has gone through other close calls.

"It's not unlike where we've been in other places as far as we've been thinking of this consolidation, it's been in legislation before," Armstrong said. "We're ready when that happens ... but it's all speculative at this point until the governor signs it.

Former VSDB-Staunton teacher and administrator Rachel Bavister talked about how settling the consolidation question would allow the school to move on to other issues, such as expanding programs to reach more deaf children.

"I'm excited, but at the same time, I would hate another let-down," she wrote in an e-mail. Bavister is now the president of the Virginia Association for the Deaf.

Both SB 676 and HB 350 would direct the Department of Education to give VSDB's Hampton campus to the New Horizons Regional Education Center, a private organization that can provide day-services to students who wish to remain in that area.

The legislation also directs the state's Department of General Services to develop a plan for any necessary renovation, additions or new construction at the Staunton campus.

If Kaine signs the consolidation plan, it would become law July 1. State and local officials then would have to work with VSDB-Staunton to determine how to ready the campus for consolidation.

Copyright ©2006 News Leader.