Indiana School for the Deaf prepares for reopening

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Indiana School for the Deaf is one of many Indiana schools still developing a full plan to reopen in the fall. The school is gearing up to open up for all students and the plan now is to re-open closer to the average start of the school year.

Officials said learning from home created challenges for all students, but truly a unique challenge for students who are deaf.

While many students were able to communicate with their teachers virtually it wasn’t that easy for students at Indiana School for the Deaf. So school leaders say they are moving forward with bringing students back to campus in the fall.

The Indiana School for the Deaf has served the community for 175 years. It’s provided a safe place for students to learn and socialize. But COVID-19 pushed kids out of the buildings, moving learning to online.

“The students need this school they need to be on campus they need that visual access and that rapport with their classmates and their peers. They need language,” said high school principal Andy Alka through interpreter Stephanie Ritchie with Easterseals Crossroads.

Learning online isn’t easy for students who can’t rely on sound. So while other schools are debating at what capacity they’ll reopen. Indiana School for the Deaf will open up to all it’s 330 students.

“I’d say about 60 percent of the students really don’t have access to signing at home which means the family doesn’t sign at home. March 13 we closed the school and they had no access to signing at home. That presents a challenge,” said Alka through Ritchie.

It’s a challenge that may go unnoticed by most. But it’s possible to work to provide quality education for all students.

“I think when people are aware and they take off their blinders and they open their hearts that’s the biggest success.”

The school has been in communication with the Indiana Department of Health to make sure the students are safe as they move through classes, lunches and the halls. But getting students back with peers and teachers, he said is paramount to their continued development.

School leaders said they expect to bring back teachers and students toward the end of August early September.