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Moving W.Va. Schools for Deaf, Blind considered

  ROMNEY, W.Va.  -- Education officials are looking at whether the West Virginia Schools for the Deaf and Blind should be relocated instead of renovated. Architectural firm ZMM Inc. of Charleston, which developed the schools' master plan, is determining what it would cost to build new schools in another location. Some state Board of Education members asked during their January meeting whether relocating the schools would be more cost effective than renovating them. The board is expected to discuss the proposal again at its February meeting, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported. The schools have been in Romney since 1870. About 120 students from 30 counties are currently enrolled. "Clearly if we move somewhere then the items in our plan that call for renovation and restoration of two historic buildings would not be part of the costs,'' Superintendent Lynn Boyer said. "But by the same token if we stay here we don't have to buy land.''She estimated a new campus would require 20 to 30 acres. The existing campus is nearly 80 acres.
If the schools are relocated, the new site must be in or near a town that's large enough to allow students to learn how to live and navigate outside the campus, Superintendent Lynn Boyer said. "We couldn't just go look for the cheapest acres of land and just go there,'' Boyer said. "There would be no advantage to going if all we were doing is moving someplace and the children have nothing but their classrooms and their dorm rooms. That's not meeting the mission of the schools." Blind students would need at least minimal public transportation and sidewalks. "Children who are deaf, or hard of hearing, have to have enough of a community around them that they can begin to understand how they, as deaf adults, eventually will manage,'' Boyer said. "How will they bring their own interpreters into a situation for instance? How will they communicate their needs to a restaurant, to a job opportunity?''Officials also need to determine whether more students would enroll if the schools were moved to a more central location in the state. "It's a hard, hard question,'' Boyer said. "We're at a time when many counties believe they can serve their children and do. We know that there are counties that try very hard but because of their own resources are not able to provide the kind of services that we can provide.''She plans to present information to the board on the cost of relocating the schools, where children who are blind and deaf live and how many attend the schools. 
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