Fall term’s underway at Iowa’s School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. Spokeswoman Cindy Angeroth says there are 110 students this year, including a few who’ve come from Nebraska since that state closed its school. New superintendent Jean Prickett comes from a school in Hawaii and is the Iowa school’s first woman leader. They’re going to use some new assessments — having always used tests for hearing-impaired kids, they’ll change to standard tests to compare the school with other kids in Iowa. The school for the deaf had to cut 600-thousand dollars from its budget two years ago but is now recovering. The school’s adding computers with the help of some grants, and Angeroth says they’re a big part of learning for the deaf students.There are computer labs on campus and half a dozen computers on each dormitory floor, and she says these kids use computers “the same way we’d use a telephone.” Angeroth says the students get on the web and email friends and family. And there’s a “video relay system” new this year for deaf and hearing-impaired Iowans both at the school and across the state. A person gets on the computer and goes to a special website where, using web-cameras, they talk in sign language to an interpreter who talks with a friend or relative and speaks to them what the person has signed. In turn, the operator will listen to the friend or relative talk and then relay that in sign language. Angeroth says it’s a way to talk that some have never enjoyed before, even with their own families. Most families don’t learn to sign with a deaf child, just using homemade signals or trying to communicate orally, so this solves a lot of communication gaps in families. Next is working with the University of Iowa to train certified teachers for the deaf, since right now there’s no process to qualify them so the school could hire teachers from Iowa.
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