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Board says school for blind to stay put

The West Virginia Board of Education threw its support behind the state Schools for the Deaf and the Blind Thursday, resolving that the school should remain at its location in Romney.

That's a victory for the school, after an extended debate over whether the best location for the school is in its aging facilities in the Eastern Panhandle.

In January, school administrators asked the Board of Education to sign off on an extensive -- potentially $100 million -- facilities plan, so that administrators could seek public funding for extensive renovations to the campus.

That prompted board members to question the wisdom of moving forward at the school's current site -- they asked Lynn Boyer, the school's superintendent, to look into the feasibility of moving to another, more central, site.

That request, and the board's subsequent investigation into the matter, prompted outcry from the school community, and Romney at large.

The specialized school has operated at its current site in Romney since 1870, just seven years after West Virginia became a state, and supporters argued vehemently that it is an integral part of that community. Last month the board held its monthly meeting in Romney, and the meeting room was filled to capacity with community members vying for the school to remain in its current location.

In the resolution it adopted Thursday, the board said that "the care shown by the Romney community for every individual student and adult associated with the schools provides the underlying strength and fiber for the backbone of support necessary for the success of the overall mission" of the school and that the Romney community uniquely "understands and respects the special characteristics of the learners in these schools."

Boyer thanked the board for its "show of support," and said she was pleased to report back to her school on the development.

She has developed a plan to include a number of stakeholders, the community, legislators and others in the effort to modernize the programs and facilities at the school in an effort to offset the cost to the public.

Also at Thursday's meeting, the Board of Education approved revisions to two policies.

* Revisions to the medication administration policy will allow local school systems to adopt local policy that allows schools to keep a stock of epinephrine -- the drug used to treat extreme allergic reactions in emergency situations -- on hand at schools.

Becky King, a coordinator in the Office of Healthy Schools, said this has become especially important in recent years, as health care professionals have seen a surge in the number of allergic reactions in kids.

"In many instances a lot of kids and staff have no idea there is an allergic reaction," she said. "And in rural West Virginia this is huge because by the time we get emergency personnel to respond it can be too late."

* Revisions to the state policy on school calendars, made in response to legislation passed earlier this year, will offer local school boards more flexibility as they plan their school calendar. They will now have a 38-week window within which to plan their calendar, instead of the current 34-week model.

Local boards are now also required to have a policy outlining a plan for dealing instructional days lost due to inclement weather. All school systems must offer 180 instructional days.

Both policies are out on public comment for 30 days. To leave a comment, visit the Board of Education website at http://wvde.state.wv.us.

Contact writer Shay Maunz at shay.maunz@dailymail.com or 304-348-4886.


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