A Push for Pre-School

1 decade 2 years 9 months ago Wednesday, March 07 2007 Mar 7, 2007 Wednesday, March 07, 2007 1:52:54 PM CST March 07, 2007 in News

This is a typical school lunch room. It has plastic trays, classic cafeteria food, and students. The students, however, don't have the same benefits as others.

According to Barbara Garrison, the superintendent of the Missouri School for the Deaf, "that's the handicapping condition, not that they can't hear, but that they don't have equal access to the world." 

For Garrison, working with deaf children is more than just a job, its been part of her whole life.

"I have a deaf brother, so I grew up bilingual: English and American Sign Language," she said.

Her secret to the success of her students is beginning as early as possible.

"Pre-school is the only way that they can get a step up on being ready to start attending school." 

The Missouri School for the Deaf does not have a pre-school program available.

Jim Morris of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education says the State's "position is that those are more suitable to serve the needs of young children than a very centralized state operated program." 

The State says being close to home provides a more natural environment. But sometimes those environments don't have the same opportunities as others.

Garrison says the programs do not "work in these rural areas where that child may be the only deaf child at that school, the school may or may not be able to provide the services for that child to succeed." 

He puts rural life for some students into perspective.

"Just imagine if you came to school here at MSD, you had to come to school here at MSD, and you're the only hearing student on this campus, how isolated would you feel?" 

The State wants to keep young children at home, because they say sending them away can be too hard. Garrison, however, knows how tough it can be, but she also knows the advantages. She recalls what happened with her family.

"Its a tough one, it was tough for my family, we drove 5 hours one way every other weekend to visit my brother in school." 

The board for the Missouri School for the Deaf is pushing to bring young children to Fulton for pre-school. The department of education thinks it is still best to leave young children at home.

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