Friday, December 4, 2009

Dec 4: Fire at School for the Deaf & Blind

According to the H. T. French History, “On the 4th of December, 1908, a fire occurred” in the Idaho School for the Deaf, Dumb, and Blind, which was then located in Boise. The school had been in operation little more than a year, having been opened in the fall of 1907. The original location was the old Central School building.

After the fire, the school moved into temporary quarters. A new site was authorized in Gooding, home of the previous governor, Frank R. Gooding (see blog item for September 16). To minimize disruption, authorities waited until after the 1910 school year to move the operation into the new facility.

Then, as now, the faculty struggled to find ways to teach their disadvantaged students. An early school head noted a major difficulty: “If born deaf, or deaf from infancy, the child enters school without language, except such gestures as are used in the home, and in some cases even these are absent. Nothing has a name for him. He does not know that names exist.”

Still, they managed. Speaking of musical education for the blind, the head also said that most “have made excellent progress, while one or two have shown that they possess exceptional ability.”

The Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind is still headquartered in Gooding. (School entrance and administrative offices, Wikimedia Commons photo.)
Because of declining enrollment, a 2006 analysis proposed a reorganization of the school, with more students being “mainstreamed” into standard school environments. The staff was reduced and other changes were made, but the operation continues under the title “Idaho Educational Services for the Deaf and the Blind.”

Hiram Taylor French, History of Idaho: A Narrative Account … , Lewis Publishing Co., Chicago and New York (1914).

James H. Hawley, History of Idaho : The Gem of the Mountains, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, Chicago (1920).

Margaret Henbest, Kathy Skippen, Patti Anne Lodge, “Idaho School for the Deaf and the Blind: A Road Map to Restructuring,” Idaho Legislative Services Office, Budget & Policy Analysis (2006).

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