Lower number of students has school districts considering consolidation for deaf programs in SA

All districts would have to agree for change

By Patty Santos - Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Changes could be looming on the horizon for hard-of-hearing students in the San Antonio region.

A dropping number of students in the Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf shared services site has some districts considering a consolidation.

Emotions ran high Monday at the San Antonio Independent School District board meeting, where parents of deaf children showed up demanding that the district not close Mission Academy. 

Leslie Price, a spokesperson with SAISD, said about 30 deaf or hard of hearing students attend the Pre-K-8th grade school. East Central ISD has six students at its high school that are deaf.

“We heard loud and clear that many parents at Mission Academy would like to continue for that to be a site,” Price said.

The conversation includes multiple school districts that fall under each site at North East ISD, Northside ISD, South San ISD, SAISD/East Central ISD, as well as Education Service Center - Region 20, which serves as a fiscal agent for one of the four sites in the San Antonio region.

“We're seeing smaller populations, and that's not ideal,” Price said. “What we want is to have a larger population of students who are deaf or hard of hearing so they have more peers to interact with.”

South San ISD has 20 students at its sites — Armstrong Elementary, Shepard Middle School and South San High School. Officials said they are currently “looking into whether the Service Center (Region 20) or another school district has interest in taking over the program. No decision has been made.”

The district said it is still gathering information about what will happen. 

“We do not have enough information at this point to share with parents since these are simply discussions that Region 20 is having at regular meetings with school districts they serve,” a spokesperson with South San ISD said.

NISD has 35 deaf or hard of hearing students enrolled at Braun Station Elementary, Stevenson Middle School and Marshall High School. It has no plans of closing its Regional Day School Programs for the Deaf.

NEISD says it serves 58 dead or heard of hearing students through its program.

Price said the proposal being considered is that Mission Academy would remain and NEISD and NISD would keep their programs.

East Central ISD high school students would relocate to a new site at Highlands High School in the SAISD district. But SSISD would dissolve its program. The students from those schools would go to a school and district closest to them.

“It isn’t a funding decision we're making. It’s how to best serve students when we’re starting to see the numbers drop so much,” Price said.  “When you have very few students that are your peers in the deaf community in your grade level, we want a healthier larger community for them. We want them to have access to peers that are also deaf or hard of hearing, as well as hearing.”

If a decision would be made on the consolidation, it would be made before August but would not impact students until the 2019-2020 school year. All school districts impacted would have to agree to the change.

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