The state Board of Regents will decide by next spring whether or not to close the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School in Vinton. The school houses on 35 of Iowa’s 600 visually impaired students and some legislators question whether that’s cost efficient. Regent Mary Ellen Becker testified before a legislative committee Monday and says many states have closed their schools for the blind because the cost. She says they tend to be high per-student costs because you need staff there 24-hours a day to serve students. She says that’s and issue when legislators divide up students based on the total cost. Becker says that while money is a concern — it’s more important to serve the students well. She says there is a small number of students at the school, but what administrators stress is that they provide a lot of services to students, such as assistive technology. A task force is studying how to make the school more efficient. Becker says one option is to partner with a new program at the University of Northern Iowa which trains teachers for the visually impaired. She says,”What that partnering means is part of the question. Does it mean them coming to our current location in Vinton? Does it mean moving the students to the University of Northern Iowa?” She says that hasn’t been decided and won’t be decided until the second half of the school year.Becker says many other states have closed their schools for the blind and moved those students to traditional schools.
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