My alma mater, Illinois School for the Deaf, got published in the Jacksonville Journal-Courier about how ISD is seeing an increase in enrollment numbers. I think it’s got to do with the technology and more information available through the web.
Rachel Sweigart heard the wrong words at the wrong time. Or maybe it was simply one word too many.
There wasn’t one particular incident at her high school in Somonauk, said her mother, Arliss. But one day, the normally stoic 15-year-old came home in tears and Arliss and Scott Sweigart knew it was time for a change.
Rachel will soon attend the Illinois School for the Deaf, and she will be one of 46 new high school students there this year. There are 63 new students overall.
“Deafness is a low-incidence disability, if you want to call it a disability,” said ISD Superintendent Mary Beth Lauderdale. “Very few people have it. Fifty-three percent of deaf students are the only deaf kid in their school. They are looking for other kids like them.”
The Sweigarts recently visited ISD and Rachel was impressed, but told her parents she’d think about it. By the time they got back to their town about 30 miles south of Dekalb, she’d decided to go.
The Sweigarts did not know about ISD. Public schools are supposed to inform parents of deaf or hard-of-hearing students of all the options for their children, but Ms. Lauderdale said it sometimes doesn’t happen.
“The dad got on the Internet and typed in ‘deaf school’ and found us,” she said.
ISD is allowed by law to passively market itself — brochures in audiologists’ offices, for instance — but it cannot recruit.
The school is more than equipped to handle the influx of 63 students, said Director of Student Life Randy Shearburn. Thirty years ago, the school had close to 500 students. With the new arrivals, it now has 252. ISD is searching for a new algebra teacher, Ms. Lauderdale said.
So, if it wasn’t for the Internet, the Sweigarts wouldn’t have found out about ISD. The web is the way to go.
I wrote a blog about my experience at ISD. You can read it here.