Kentucky School for the Blind Advisory Board virtual meeting: Monday, January 25

  • A detailed reopening plan should be sent out in mid-February. The school is prepared with PPE and will adhere to the state’s Healthy at School guidance.
  • KSB Advisory Board members mulled ways to better prepare graduates for work and independent living.

By Jim Gaines

The Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) plans to allow students to return for in-person classes starting March 1, Principal Peggy Sinclair-Morris said during the KSB Advisory Board meeting Jan. 25.

Plans call for reopening classes for day students and reopening dorms for resident students, she said.

The school will continue to offer virtual classes for students who choose not to return to in-person instruction, said Carol Ann Morrison, the Kentucky Department of Education’s director of state schools.

School officials will send out a survey this week to parents or guardians of KSB students, asking whether they want to continue virtual classes or return to in-person learning, Sinclair-Morris said.

The campus is well stocked with personal protective equipment and classrooms are outfitted with plastic shields to hinder the spread of COVID-19, she said.

“We have masks, we have gowns, we have little booties, we have little hats,” Sinclair-Morris said.

A detailed plan for reopening should be sent to parents and staff in mid-February, Morrison said.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) has provided multiple guidance documents with details for reopening, she said. The KSB plan is based on the state’s Healthy at School guidance and advice from the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) Morrison said.

About 70% of KSB staff signed up to get vaccinated against COVID-19, and the first dose was administered last week, Sinclair-Morris said. Staff should expect an email on scheduling their second dose, she said.

Morrison said the pandemic has increased the need for support for the students’ families, and the KDE Office of Special Education and Early Learning has added links to many resources on the Parent and Family Resources webpage on the KDE website.

KSB Work Program
Board members discussed ideas to better prepare KSB students for personal independence and the working world.

“I think one of the biggest things, something that parents talk about is how can we expand the types of jobs available to students,” Board Chair Janell Turner said. Many of the entry-level jobs offered to KSB students are in food service – not a bad starting point, but future jobs should align with students’ individual interests, she said.

Improving KSB students’ access to careers is a goal that will take time to implement, board member Brandi Hitzelberger said. The school needs to overhaul the way it prepares students for job interviews and resume writing, and bring in more mentors and former students to talk about their jobs, she said.

The school has gotten away from teaching basic life skills, but now more than half of KSB’s student population has disabilities in addition to visual impairment, making such education even more important, Hitzelberger said.

Turner said students often have little exposure to jobs, so they don’t have a good idea of what they can do. Perhaps KSB could emulate co-op programs at other schools or get community partners to let KSB students shadow workers at available jobs, she said.

Morrison said improving transition services for students at KSB is a current focus.

The next KSB Advisory Board meeting is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET April 19.