Declining funding causes Moog School of Columbia to close

Thursday, May 19, 2011 | 6:49 p.m. CDT; updated 8:10 p.m. CDT, Thursday, May 19, 2011

COLUMBIA — Diminishing funds have led to the decision to close the doors of Columbia's school for the deaf and partially deaf.

The Moog School of Columbia, which teaches children ages 3 to 5, announced Tuesday it plans to shut down July 14. Currently, there are 14 students at the school and 10 will be affected, Judy Harper, director of the school, said.

As a replacement, Columbia Public Schools plans to provide the needed resources to local students. 

"Hearing impairment and deafness are low-incidence types of disorders, so the number of hearing impaired and deaf children being born is lower than other childhood disorders," Harper said.

The school currently employs five teachers. After it closes, teachers can apply for positions within Columbia Public Schools, but Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources, said they must still go through the same hiring process as other educators.

The hiring decisions will be based on the number of students who need the instruction the Moog School provided, Laffey said.

If Moog School of Columbia teachers apply for jobs in the district and are hired, their years of teaching experience will be considered, Christine King, vice president of the Columbia School Board, said. "Then they're placed on the salary schedule in that fashion."

Unlike other Moog School branches, which are financially independent, the Moog School of Columbia is a partner branch of the Moog Center for Deaf Education in St. Louis.

While local schools plan to provide the same resources as the Moog School of Columbia, students who aren't from the area could run into problems.

The specialized school is the only program of its kind in mid-Missouri to focus specifically in aural and vocal improvement for deaf and partially deaf children. Since 2001, it has served students within a 90-mile radius of Columbia.

"The Moog School of Columbia was able to draw students from many school districts and has covered most of mid-Missouri," Betsy Brooks, director of the Moog School and Family School based in St. Louis, said. "However, Columbia Public Schools are limited in the areas from which they can draw students."

A key factor in absorbing new students with specific needs is funding. Columbia Public Schools receives federal money for early childhood special education, Tom Rose, president of the board, said.

"I'm very impressed by what our early children's education people do in serving those families," Rose said. "I'm sure they'll still be able to get that service and also have a more continuous flow of transitioning through the elementary system as they move through that level."

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