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Medford Schools delay changes to deaf program, apologize for poor communication

After several months of wondering what the fate of their children will be, parents of the Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing have gotten a clearer answer.

Posted: May 17, 2019 11:12 AM
Updated: May 17, 2019 6:43 PM

MEDFORD, Ore. -- After several months of wondering what the fate of their children will be, parents of the Program for Deaf and Hard of Hearing have gotten a clearer answer.

In early May, NewsWatch 12 first reported that parents received a letter in February from Medford School District Special Education Director Tania Tong saying the district planned on providing services to students who live in Medford at the Medford School District. That change would have gone into effect at the start of the 2019 school year and would have split up an already small group of students. For about 40 years, the program has pulled all of the deaf and hard-of-hearing students from around the region to be educated together in the Central Point School District. Parents of the program say that's the way they like it. 

The letter caused anger and frustration among parents. Several spoke out saying the change will have lasting, negative effects on the already small group of kids. 

On Friday, parents were emailed out a letter from Special Education Services Director Susan Peck. 

The letter said the Medford School District has decided it will not open classrooms in the Medford School District for students to receive PDHH services during the 2019-2020 school year. 

Medford School District Communication Specialist Natalie Hurd told NewsWatch 12 the district decided to make the change so that it can use the 2019 school year productively. The district plans to use the year to do professional development with teachers and staff, site visits and work on engagement with families who will be affected by the change. 

Hurd said the district realizes there was poor communication during the last few months and apologizes for that. 

Parents of the program tell NewsWatch 12 the district promised them they would be receiving letters about any changes, which they did not receive until several weeks later. 

Parent Lauren White said the last few months have been stressful for her and her family trying to get meetings with school leaders and figuring out what's going on.

"Once we caught word that it was postponed, you know we took a small sigh of relief, but we know that there's so much more to go," White said. 

White said parents hope to see the district consult with experts in the deaf community as they move forward.

"What I want to see is professionals in deaf education helping with these decisions, specifically our local teachers of the deaf," White said. 

Hurd said the lengthy process took longer than the district expected because of the complex nature of the issue and the district's efforts to work with all parties involved in the regional structured program. 

Hurd said families who live in Medford will be receiving a letter in the next few days updating them on these changes and working toward better communication. 

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