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April 11, 2006

Plan would keep VSDB in city

From: Staunton News Leader, VA - Apr 11, 2006

Governor tweaks consolidation bills, which must win Assembly approval
By Christina Murphy/staff

STAUNTON — The Virginia Schools for the Deaf and the Blind edged closer to consolidation in Staunton on Monday, but an amendment from the governor must win approval by the General Assembly to take effect.

The amendment strips out language that would have given the Hampton campus to the New Horizons Regional Education Center, a private organization that already offers special education services to several school districts in that area. The new version of the bill does not specify who will run a day program for Hampton students who do not wish to relocate.

But the part of the legislation that calls for a consolidated campus in Staunton remains intact.

"There is no consensus yet on what type of program should be offered in the Hampton Roads region," Gov. Tim Kaine said in a press release Monday. "This amendment will give state and regional officials flexibility in developing the program."

The General Assembly is scheduled to meet April 19 to review the governor's amendments. While the VSDB bill does not set a timeline for consolidation, Hall said the legislature seemed intent on moving forward.

"We all know this issue has been studied and studied and studied again," Hall said.

The bill and its subsequent amendment represent a great deal of negotiation between stakeholders from both areas, said Sen. Emmett Hanger Jr., R-Mount Solon. Hanger sponsored the original Senate bill this session.

"I'm as excited about the potential for the regional program in Hampton as I am about what we may be able to do in Staunton," Hanger said Monday, adding that the Hampton day program would be able to serve students with a broad range of needs.

Another long-time consolidation advocate, Del. Chris Saxman, R-Staunton, also sounded positive Monday.

"We're as close as we've ever been," Saxman said. "I'm very encouraged by what I've seen so far."

©2006 Staunton News Leader.