The D&C reports that the New York's Education Department is considering turning Batavia's historic School for the Blind into a private institution because the state cannot adequately run the institution.
The state Board of Regents will decide next week whether to seek letters of interest from private operators who could run the Batavia school. The change would require approval from the state Legislature and governor.
No recommendations have been made yet, said Rebecca Cort, a deputy commissioner.
"We do want to reassure people that we are not looking to close this school," she said. "In fact, it's just the opposite. We are trying to look long term and say, 'How do we continue to ensure the viability of a very viable program?'"
The 140-year-old institution's enrollment was once as high as 300 but is now just over 50. The population has declined largely because school districts have adapted to federal and state laws that require special-education students be mainstreamed into regular classrooms when possible.
The LoHud.com version of the story contains this:
Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, R-Batavia, said he is also trying to publicize the school. As for privatization, "I'm not sure that that's necessarily the route that we need to take at this point."
The school has about 150 state employees and a $10.3 million annual operating budget. It is one of two state-run schools. The other is the School for the Deaf in Rome, Oneida County.
On Tuesday, the Regents will discuss a report on the school by the Education Transformation Group. ETG, which was hired by the state, recommended operating a seven-day program and expanding admissions criteria to include students who are developmentally disabled and have a sensory impairment (vision and/or hearing loss) that makes it difficult to succeed in a regular classroom.
ETG is recommending the institution be privatized and become a state-approved school. Doing so would provide greater flexibility in who could be admitted, the report said.
The school was founded in 1868 largely to help Civil War veterans learn new skills. Here's a 1995 New York Times story that goes into some detail on the school's facilities and results.