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May 18, 2007

Oregon School for the Blind, Oregon School for the Deaf to Share Campus

From: Salem-News.Com, OR - May 18, 2007

The move would take place after the 2008-2009 school year.

(SALEM, Ore. ) - State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo announced Friday that after two years of study by the Department of Education and hundreds of hours of meetings with stakeholders on what would be best for students, she has decided that the Oregon School for the Blind and the Oregon School for the Deaf should be co-located on the OSD campus in Salem.

The move would take place after the 2008-2009 school year.

“It is my decision to move the Oregon School for the Blind to the OSD campus with the objective of building a strong new OSB facility, bringing operational costs down by reducing duplication and improving both school operations,” Castillo said.

“The schools, as they exist today with very high costs per student, are not sustainable. Seismic and structural considerations dictate significant facility improvements. Co-location is the only way to focus our existing resources and preserve the two schools without seeking tens of millions of dollars from the State School Fund.”

“The move would be contingent on the sale of the OSB property, generating sufficient funds to make needed changes on the OSD campus,” Castillo said. “The legislature will need to provide some assistance to allow that the funds would follow the students to the new campus.”

“I understand that change can be difficult, but after looking at all the facts it is clear that co-location is absolutely necessary if we are to best serve Oregon’s students,” Castillo said.

“I am committed to providing the leadership and resources necessary to ensure that the change is successful. I want everyone to know that all decisions associated with making this change will be made with the utmost consideration of what is best for students, their families, and the taxpayers of the state of Oregon.”

“I will work with all the affected parties and stakeholders, prior to any move, to resolve concerns that have been raised around the issues of transportation improvements, neighborhood safety, proximity to rail lines, and interaction of student populations,” Castillo said.

Castillo outlined the following program benefits for students:

New and improved facilities for students who are blind; the old OSB site will be closed.

Improvements to the buildings and facilities of the existing Oregon School for the Deaf site (for example,

Kuenzi Hall and other buildings are unsafe and need major repairs).

Added amenities for all students, such as the therapy pool and outdoor track.

Safety will be easier to manage on a single campus, and the relocation of students from the School for the Blind moves them to a safer neighborhood, according to crime statistics.

Savings resulting from consolidation of operations can be redirected to educational programs.

Cost savings include the physical plant and maintenance operations, health service operations, and food service operations; consolidation of some basic school program services required by both student populations as well as various campus-focused committees and workgroups (e.g. Safety Committee, Curriculum Committee, and some staff professional development opportunities).

“Our discussions with other states that are successfully operating two schools on a single campus highlight program benefits for students. Those states report that a single campus with a school for the blind and a school for the deaf provides students, teachers, and other staff the opportunities to promote and support the ability to live and work with others and to learn to better understand others’ perspectives and needs,” Castillo said. “The ability to provide better educational programs and services for students, coupled with significant cost savings for the state’s taxpayers, helped make the decision clear.”

The 2005 Oregon Legislature approved the budget for the Oregon Department of Education with direction to the agency to “provide a report to the interim Senate and House education committees as well as to the Emergency Board during 2005-2007 on the cost-effectiveness of transferring the program at the Oregon School for the Blind to the Oregon School for the Deaf campus. The review shall include the cost-effectiveness of contracting out of the two programs to a local education agency.”

In June 2006, Castillo assembled a study group to examine the issues and develop a set of recommendations.

The OSB/OSD Study Group made two major recommendations: first, to move OSB to OSD campus provided costs of the move do not override current cost of programs and any subsequent savings should be maintained within programs for students who are sensory impaired; second, that ODE should retain responsibility for the education of the students and subsequent programs but should move management to another public education entity, such as an ESD.

In October 2006, Castillo announced that contracting out instructional programs to a local education agency was not in the best interest of students at the state schools.

She announced that students would be served best by programs continuing to be operated by the Oregon Department of Education.

In December 2006, Castillo asked Department staff for a feasibility study on the recommendation to move the OSB programs to the OSD campus.

In March 2007, she received the analysis of the State Schools Study Committee’s recommendation to move programs from the Oregon School for the Blind to the campus of the Oregon School for the Deaf.

The analysis covered physical space, staffing requirements, special events, safety and environment, and cost/benefit analysis. That analysis served as the basis for today’s announcement to co-locate the two programs

© 2007