Preparations for Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD) 200th anniversary are underway, Principal Toyah Robey informed the KSD Advisory Board at its Aug. 10 virtual meeting.
KSD, which opened its doors on April 10, 1823, is the fourth-oldest school for the deaf in the United States. Most of the activities and events celebrating KSD’s bicentennial will start in July 2022 and continue through the 2022-2023 school year. However, KSD will hold its first event to mark its 200th anniversary with a memorial 5k run on KSD’s campus in September, said Robey.
Robey, who is working with a committee on the anniversary events, said plans are in motion for campus tours, new 200th anniversary banners and student-made stained-glass artwork showcasing the history of KSD. Robey and the committee are developing a communications plan to promote the events. Updates will be shared on KSD’s website and through social media.
Return to School
Robey informed the KSD Advisory Board of the executive order issued by Gov. Andy Beshear requiring face coverings in Kentucky’s public and private schools, regardless of vaccination status. KSD began its school year Aug. 9 requiring masks.
Robey said the school has ordered a new type of clear masks designed to help with lip reading and facial expressions. Other safety measures in place for KSD staff and students include social distancing, frequent hand washing, contact tracing and procedures for students and staff who become ill.
“Our goal is to keep school open. We know that this is where kids need to be,” said Robey. “As long as it is safe for all, we will keep school open.”
Robey also shared a comment she received on opening day from a parent who is concerned about students losing vital language opportunities due to wearing face coverings.
Scott Haun, KSD advisory board chair, appreciated the parent sharing the concern with the board and agreed many people have expressed similar feelings on communication barriers for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing.
According to Executive Order 2021-585, there is an exception for the requirement to wear a face covering when inside a public or private school for any person who is deaf or hard of hearing and is actively communicating, or any person who is actively communicating with someone who is deaf or hard of hearing and is able to maintain a safe distance of six feet from all individuals who are not members of that person’s household.
“It is a challenge for us (deaf individuals), but we must use best practices and common sense,” said Haun.
Board member Debbie Martin admitted surprise at how well the students did with masks.
“The kids did really good. I didn’t know how they would do, but they did really well with their masks. I applaud the kids for that,” she said.
In other actions, the board:
- Received a report from Robey on KSD summer school. Thirty students attended classes and enrichment opportunities over the course of four weeks;
- Created an ad-hoc committee to discuss the possible creation of a public relations role at KSD to increase outreach and community engagement;
- Discussed recruiting two parent representatives to serve on the advisory board. According to the by-laws, this can include parents of KSD alumni;
- Continued discussions from the previous advisory meeting on Jacobs Hall renovations. Haun stressed the importance of Kentucky Department of Education and legislative branch involvement for building maintenance and updates; and
- Discussed changes to Praxis requirements for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing and working toward their teaching certifications. Robey shared that staff support KSD teachers preparing to take the Praxis test by providing tutoring.
The KSD Advisory Board will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. ET Tuesday, Nov. 9.