Graphic reading: Kentucky School for the Blind Advisory Board virtual meeting, Oct. 12, 2021The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) will provide the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB) the opportunity to improve campus building renovations and increase staff size, members of the KSB Advisory Board discussed during their in-person Oct. 12 meeting.

Walter T. Hulett, a capital projects consultant for both KSB and the Kentucky School for the Deaf (KSD), met with the board as members worked to prioritize campus renovations that are part of the $3.9 million in ESSER funding designated for the two schools.

The main priority for KSB’s campus will be renovating the roof, creating a standalone boiler system and installing a new HVAC system in Evans Hall, which contains a dormitory space. Other renovations include working on the HVAC systems in Hartford Hall for the school’s kitchen.

Hulett stressed the importance of Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and legislative branch involvement for building maintenance and updates.

“It’s going to take some support to be able to move forward with things the campus needs and helping us support the students here,” he said. “Because [ESSER] money, though very beneficial, will not help us get to every building that we would like to.”

KSB Principal Peggy Sinclair-Morris discussed additional uses of ESSER funding to hire federally funded, time-limited employees. These employees will be funded until September 2024.

KSB will hire three paraprofessionals, along with a social worker. Morris is hopeful that KSB and KDE can collect data on the significance and value of the added positions and request funding from the Kentucky Board of Education to make those positions permanent.

White Cane Safety Day

Morris spoke to the board about the plans for students to celebrate White Cane Safety Day, recognized nationally on Oct. 15 to celebrate the achievements of people who are blind or visually impaired.

Prompted by the interest of a student, the school put together a committee of students and staff to plan for White Cane Day. The middle school and high school students will observe the day by taking a field trip to the Old Bardstown Village and Civil War Museum in Bardstown. The student will give a presentation to their peers and patrons of the museum about the importance of White Cane Safety Day.

“We’re excited because it has really been a student-led activity,” said Morris.

The elementary students will participate in a scavenger hunt on the KSB campus. All students and staff will receive a student-designed T-shirt to wear during White Cane Safety Day activities. Individuals can learn more about White Cane Safety Day on the Braille Institute website.

Community members are invited to participate in the KSB Outreach Virtual 5K. The 5K can be completed through Oct. 15. Registration is available online until Oct. 14 at 11:59 p.m. ET. All participants must register.

In other actions, the board:

  • Heard from Morris about the new staff joining KSB since the last meeting, including a social worker, safety director and recreation coordinator;
  • Heard from Morris about three students participating in the Student Mental Health Action Summit roundtables hosted by Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman, who also serves as secretary of the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet;
  • Learned about upcoming professional development opportunities for staff on resiliency and cortical visual impairment;
  • Heard from Carol Ann Morrison, KDE’s director of state schools, about KDE’s six-year plan for KSB and KSD funding, which currently includes finishing building updates, increasing permanent staff size and covering salary increases;
  • Heard from Morrison about the added links to many resources on the Parent and Family Resources webpage on the KDE website; and
  • Discussed plans to recruit new board members.

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