Monday November 25, 1985

Cedar Valley Times
Monday, November 25, 1985

Vinton Unlimited directors tour Braille school

Times Staff Writer

VINTON—The Board of Directors of Vinton Unlimited and the members of the Action Committee to Save Our School, toured the Iowa Braille and Sight Saving School Friday, Nov 22 to see what the community has to lose—if Gov. Terry Branstad gets his way.

     Branstad hopes to reduce the burden on the state budget by merging the IBSSS with the Iowa School for the Deaf in Council Bluffs. The school is currently governed by the Iowa Board of Regents, but the governor would like to create one agency of the two under the Dept. of Public Instruction.

     His plan is part of an overall wide-ranging proposal intended to cut $130 million from state spending

     The tour, conducted by Dean Stenehjem. IBSSS director of education and Mary Beth Young, director of student / home services, covered many areas unique to the Braille school.

     Situated on a 55-acre campus donated to the State by the citizens of Vinton in 1858 for the purpose of educating blind students, one of the school's many features is an ample recreation facility - used by both IBSSS and the Vinton School system, alike.

     The facility boasts a therapy pool, a swimming pool, renovated in 1980 with trust funds, a bowling alley, a weight room and a two-year-old $40 thousand dollar hard-surfaced track paid for with donations received from the Lions Club.

     According to Stenehjem, one of the school's major philosophies has been to help visually-impaired students develop recreational skills at different levels, so they can actively participate in the outside community.

     With a fully accredited and approved program for students aged three to 21, IBSSS has also been a state model for integration in the Vinton Community Schools. Not only does it offer a critical life approach to educating multi-handicapped students, it offers a comprehensive elementary and secondary curriculum, which includes vocational education and work experience.

     In the industrial arts program, for example, the students have an opportunity to learn woodworking and electricity. The curricula is based on the students interests, and it provides them with a full range of skills, Stenehjem said

     Of course, instruction in adaptive communications and high-tech devices is also instrumental to the students' education at IBSSS. The Kurzweil Reading Machine, is one such device, that transforms visual images into speech. It was a $30 thousand dollar gift to the school.

     The tour also included stops at the library, where Braille, large type, and talking books and records are available for loan and at the State-Wide Large Print Production and Dissemination Center where some 1.286 titles serve the needs of 169 visually-impaired students throughout Iowa.

     With the capacity to house 213 resident students, all the facilities are accessible to wheelchairs and are connected by tunnels for convenience in the winter months.

     It is also the practicum site for several different colleges and universities, and a summer institute for the teacher training program.

     As for the medical services available, IBSSS has one RN, five LPN’s and one nursing assistant at the Health Center providing students with around-the-clock care. The center works closely with the Vinton Clinic, and cooperates with the Virginia Gay Hospital as well

     In addition, "it's very valuable to be close to the university." Dr S L Anthony said.

     The University of Iowa's Ophthalmology Department is the foremost eye department in the world. Thus, the location of the Braille school here is good for the IBSSS students, and good for the medical school, he said.

     IBSSS also offers special therapies and other health services as well—like the annual low vision clinic According to Young, director of student home services at IBSSS, "no fee is charged to any student in the state (for the low vision clinic)."

     It's a unique opportunity offered here." she added

     "This is a model program," Anthony said "Here's something we have, that everybody wants—that we're going to lose through a little political manipulation."