Panel Examines Education of Del. Blind and Visually-Impaired - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Panel Examines Education of Del. Blind and Visually-Impaired

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DOVER, Del. (WBOC) - Improving education for blind and visually-impaired kids in Delaware - that's what a panel that met Tuesday for the first time is trying to do.

A large portion of how the kids are educated is handled at the state, not district, level. The panel will examine assistive technology, individual education plans, post-secondary transitioning and, perhaps most importantly, the teachers.

Debbie Briddell from Dover is visually-impaired, and for a quarter century she taught visually-impaired students in Seaford. She says they face challenges.

"Getting them enough time to get everything in during the school day - there are a lot of things they need to learn academically - but their independent living skills, there isn't enough time."

Concerns like that are what the Blind and Visually-impaired Education Task Force is looking at.

Dan Madrid, director of the Delaware Division for the Visually impaired, says right now there are a bit more than 250 blind and visually-impaired students in Delaware.

"We have approximately eight teachers right now in Delaware serving 253 students," he said. "In addition to that, we two orientation mobility instructors, we have one assistive technology professional, and we have a senior librarian in material center, who helps adapt the materials for the students."

Sen. Dave Lawson, R-Marydel, says the student-teacher ratio is unacceptable, and teachers are spread too thin.

"They're spread throughout their county or throughout their area. So, that teacher could spend five hours on the road getting to three students in a day's time," Sen. Lawson said.

How big an issue that is and how to address it is part of what the panel will consider. But Briddell says the broader discussion is what's most important.

"Definitely need more teachers - the ratio needs to drop," she said. "But that's just, you know, the main focus - education all around, to make sure kids are getting what they need in school."

The panel will number of times between now and June 1 when its recommendations and findings are due to the general assembly.

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