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Teachers and parents fight to keep Guiding Hand School open

Gallia County Board of Developmental Disabilities is on the ballot this November with a $1 million levy to provide ongoing programs and support for children with developmental disabilities. (WCHS/WVAH)

At Guiding Hand School in Gallipolis, Ohio routine is the key to success. The school is one of 35 County Board of Developmental Disability schools in Ohio for children with moderate to intensive developmental disabilities.

Guiding Hand teaches students from preschool to 12th grade. As principal Suzanne Eachus explained the small class sizes and constant hands on learning provide a safe and stimulating learning environment that fits each child's needs no matter what level they are currently learning on.

"Our school is very individualized," Eachus said. "Our board works to serve individuals from birth to death. We want our students to be as independent as they can be. We try to focus on those small milestones. It may be as little as communicating, but we try to work with them to be able to communicate in their own way. It might be through pictures or through sign language."

The staff works to provide each child with one on one help throughout the day, and provide them with a safe, quiet space if they become over stimulated.

"Some of our kids might get over stimulated with the noise level or a lot of people. We have a sensory room, a therapy room and a safe playground that is fenced in. Here they are able to have an outlet if they need to take a break."

Because of state funding cuts and an increase in the number of students enrolling every year. The Guiding Hand School staff said the County Board does not have the money to keep the school open next fall. The Board is proposing a $1 million levy that will keep the school open for at least the next 10 years. Gallia County residents will be able to vote on the levy November 7th. If it does not pass the students enrolled in Guiding Hand will be integrated into the public school system.

Tessa Martin is a parent and teacher at Guiding Hand. She said many of the kids she teaches every day would not function well if they were moved into a public school.

"To throw them out of that routine would be terrible," Martin said. "It would also throw their home life into a mess. Everyone would have to adjust. I would ask the voters to put themselves in a parents place. Routine is so important to these kids. They will get all new teachers and peers. We also have the safety measures designed for them at this school."

The parents and staff are asking citizens to votes yes. For a homeowner in Gallia County the extra cost for the levy would be about $80 a year.

Jodi Newell's daughter is diagnosed with Rett's syndrome a rare genetic disorder affecting brain development. She is also a teacher at Guiding Hand School.

"You never know when your child might be diagnosed with a disability," Newell said. "Then you will need the many services we provide here. With my daughter's disorder she will need life long services. After she gets through school she is still going to need the services we provide here."

The Gallia County Board of Developmental Disabilities levy will be on the November 7th ballot. To learn more about the Guiding Hand School visit their website.


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