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Spartanburg’s SC School for the Deaf and the Blind has statewide reach

There are many misconceptions about the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. One is that it’s a private school. Another is that it’s a residence for people in the area who are deaf and blind.

But the sprawling 160-acre campus on Cedar Springs Road in Spartanburg is South Carolina’s very public specialized school for students in grades Pre-K3 – 12 who are deaf or blind. The campus also houses Cedar Springs Academy for South Carolina students who have a vision or hearing disability with at least one other physical or intellectual disability.

“We’re like any other public school in South Carolina,” says Katie Rice, the school’s Director of Public Relations. “There is no cost to attend.”

About 250 students attend classes on the Spartanburg campus during the school year. Nearly half of them live outside the Upstate, so they live on campus during the week, returning home on weekends and during school breaks.

The SC School for the Deaf and the Blind serves an additional 1,100 students each year through contract teaching services for deaf and blind students attending public schools statewide, and through an outreach program that serves children from birth to age 5 who are deaf, blind or sensory multi-disabled and their parents.

“Early intervention is extremely important for a family with a child that is born deaf or blind,” Rice said. “For example, if a child is born deaf, they can’t hear the words ‘I love you’ and all of the unintentional conversation that happens at the dinner table. If a child is born blind, they may not understand concepts such as over and under, or around. Family members need to learn how to be very intentional in teaching them. We work together with parents to help children reach their maximum pre-school potential so that they are ready for elementary school.”

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Cutting-edge assistive technology

The SC School for the Deaf and the Blind is the statewide distribution center for instructional tools such as large-print and braille materials. It also is a statewide provider for American Sign Language interpreting services, and recently began offering ASL classes for the public.

But it’s the school’s assistive technology that truly sets it apart. From magnifying equipment and visual alerting devices to screen readers and refreshable braille displays, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind stays abreast of the latest technology available to assist and enhance the classroom experience for its students.

Academics, arts and athletics

Like other public schools, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind is not all about academics. Its students, too, are involved in a full lineup of arts and athletics.

Rated an advanced school by the SC Arts in the Basic Curriculum Project, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind offers visual arts that include drawing, painting and 3D design, music such as performance choir, keyboard and steel drums, dance including hip-hop, jazz, tap and ballet, and drama.

Student athletes compete against area public and private schools in Region 1A of the South Carolina High School League in basketball, football, soccer, track and field, volleyball and cheerleading. The school also participates in South Carolina Special Olympics and fields teams in goalball – a team sport designed specifically for athletes with a vision impairment. Participants compete in teams of three, trying to throw a ball that has bells embedded in it into the opposing goal. The ball is thrown by hand and never kicked.

Additionally, basketball and volleyball players compete in tournaments of the Mason-Dixon Schools for the Deaf Athletic Association. The SC School for the Deaf and the Blind was the host site of last week’s Mason-Dixon Girls Basketball Tournament that brought nine teams from across the Southeast to Spartanburg.

“These tournaments are an exciting time for our students,” said SCSDB Director of Athletics Michael Sims. “They build relationships during these events that become lifelong friendships.”

While the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind receives state and federal funding for operations, the school welcomes community support and charitable donations through its nonprofit foundation.

On Feb. 8, the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Foundation will host its 10th Annual So You Think You Can Cook Chili Cook-Off. Proceeds from this popular event help fund instructional resources, adaptive technology and extracurricular programs for students.

For more information on the chili cook-off and to purchase tickets, visit the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind Foundation online.

For information on admissions and the application process at the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind, visit the school’s website at scsdb.org.

All photos courtesy of the SC School for the Deaf and the Blind. 

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