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Virginia School for the Deaf and Blind closes dorm to save money, more cuts may come

By Associated Press, 10/13/2013
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STAUNTON, Va. — After a recommendation was made by the state department for planning and budget, the Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind decided to close one of its four dorms to save money this fall.

Enrollment is down at the Staunton school and the space was unnecessary, at least at the moment.

By closing the dorm the school will see cost savings of $157,424 by cutting utilities and not replacing four staffers who left.

Superintendent Nancy Armstrong was worried that closing the dorm would limit the number of residential students the school could accept — right now there are 72 — but so far the school has not had to turn away prospective students. They still have open seats in all three remaining dorms.

It might come to that, Armstrong said of capping residential enrollment — the school has rolling admission and accepts students all year round — but even if dorm space is maxed out, it’s unlikely that Bass Hall will be able to re-open.

Although it is saving money by closing the dorm, VSDB like all state agencies has been asked by Gov. Bob McDonnell’s office to cut its budgets by 2 percent for the coming fiscal year. For VSDB that could mean an additional $206,000 in cuts.

Armstrong said she doesn’t know if the 2 percent cuts will come to pass in the end, but the school needs to be prepared for them in case they do.

With enrollment down, and the school receiving less state funding as a result, Armstrong said she does not know where that 2 percent is going to come from, but closing the dorm may help a little bit. The school also eliminated an additional 14 positions this year to save money.

An enrollment and projection study shows that the number of students attending VSDB has dropped by 50 percent since 1980 and will continue to decrease over the next 15 years.

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