State education leaders considered a plan this year to close the Iowa School for the Deaf, but a panel now recommends the school not only remain open, but be expanded to include visually-impaired students. Patrick Clancy, superintendent of the school in Council Bluffs, is thrilled with the findings of the panel, which was appointed by the Board of Regents.

They say Iowa’s School for the Deaf serves a very important role in the state and they recommend “it continue to do so as a residential program for students who are deaf and hard of hearing as well as adding a regional component to this program,” Clancy says. “In the future, if these recommendations are approved, it would also serve a small population of students who are blind and visually impaired.”

The proposal still needs the Board of Regents’ and legislature’s approval before moving forward. Clancy says the idea of closing the 157-year-old school didn’t sit well with alumni and supporters of deaf education. “The deaf community from around the state and certainly from this geographic area have expressed their view by attendance at all the public hearings, submitting written comments and they’ve been very active in terms of support for the Iowa School for the Deaf as well as support for good services for students that are deaf statewide,” he says.

Clancy says the ISD would become one of five regional centers to serve such students and would be the only residential school in the state. The upgrade would cost more than three-million dollars but Clancy says that cost could be offset by sharing expenses with other entities, including local school districts. He hopes the panel’s report is heard.

He says, “The Board of Regents will certainly strongly consider their recommendations and these recommendations will likely also meet the action of the legislature and so it’s probably nearing the end of this legislative session before we’ll know the status of this.”

The Iowa Board of Regents will next meet on December 5th. In addition to Iowa students, the school is also home to about a dozen hearing-impaired students from Nebraska as the Nebraska School for the Deaf in Omaha closed in 1998.