North Iowa school district chosen as pilot for program to help visually and hearing impaired students


Can you imagine what it would be like to try and learn in school, without being able to see the board or hear the teacher?

Right now in Iowa, if you are blind, or deaf, you have to travel quite a ways just to get the specialized education you need to learn.

But that’s all changing for one local school district that’s been chosen as the pilot school for a new program.

It’s been a struggle for parents in rural areas to find effective educational services for their children who are blind or deaf, but that won’t be the case anymore.

The Charles City School District will be the first of several regional programs around the state that will provide specialized teachers and other services for these students.

“She’s very smart, she learns things very fast.”

Joan Ross is an educational interpreter at WashingtonElementary School in CharlesCity.

She works with a deaf student named Jenessa who has cochlear implants that help her hear some sounds and pitches.

“We go through the school day, reading spelling, math, any class that she takes, I’m in the class with her and I interpret what the teachers are saying,” says Ross.

This kind of specialized education will continue at the school district this fall when it becomes the pilot program for students with visual and hearing impairments.

“That was actually kind of a challenge.”

Jenessa’s mom, Kelsi says her and her husband wanted their daughter to go to a public school and not attend a deaf school, especially since the nearest school for the deaf was an hour away.

“She was in special Ed. in school the very first year and when she went to regular school, we really saw her come out of her shell more and blossom,” says Kelsi.

Jenessa is not their only child with a hearing loss, the family also has an 8 month old who will need cochlear implants as well.

Kelsi says having her children educated in a public school will give them the best education.

“They’re not going to be able to be in a classroom after their 18 that’s not an ideal situation for them to be stuck in a room of 4-6 people the benefits of having that smaller class for some studies would be great but to be in with the general public & for people to be used to them, see signing and maybe learn some of it,” she says.

She hopes the program will help her two kids live independent and productive lives.

This program is not just for students enrolled at CharlesCity, but for all blind and deaf students in the geographical area.

The plan is to start services for the fall of this year and then have a fully operational site in the fall of 2015.

Superintendent Dr. Dan Cox said right now they’re waiting on state legislation to come through with funding for the new program.

It’s also expected to bring more jobs and tax income to the area.


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