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County Plans to Move School for Deaf

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The planning of a new school on Bloomfield Street for students who are deaf and hard of hearing is underway.

The School of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing is being forced out of its current location at San Marino Elementary School in Buena Park because of class-size reductions, ending its 30-year tenure in the Centralia Unified School District.

Officials at the Orange County Department of Education, who oversee the school, want to lease 80,000 square feet of land between Los Alamitos Elementary and McAuliffe Middle schools and have begun working with an architect to develop drawings for the district to consider.

Councilwoman Alice Jempsa, who has spent years working with special education students, said the school will be welcomed in Los Alamitos, especially because it will be built on the spot once planned for the Orange County High School of Arts, which is moving to Santa Ana.

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“I would probably be over there volunteering if I had time,” she said. “It’s a tremendous need, and the more we can do for these youngsters with special needs . . . the better.”

With fewer than 50 students, the school would probably not be opposed by the city, Jempsa said. Despite having few students, the school has outgrown its present location in Buena Park.

The school serves children up to sixth grade and provides specialized education for students with cochlear hearing implants, who are trained to hear and speak rather than use sign language.

The school needs the approval of the county and school district and state funding to begin construction, but city and school officials are optimistic. Tentative plans call for four buildings with six classrooms and four offices. The school has acquired modular buildings that could be moved to Los Alamitos Elementary School until funding comes through for construction.

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A new campus for the School of the Arts was proposed at that site last spring. But after the city successfully sued the arts school over traffic and environmental concerns, the school abandoned the site and chose to relocate to Santa Ana, where it will open this fall.

The issue divided the community. Some saw the loss of the arts school as a blow to the prestige of the city. But Jempsa said this may be a case of things working out for the best.

“I talked to [Richard Opacic, executive director of the arts school] the other day,” Jempsa said. “They already have 1,200 applicants and have selected 800 students for this fall [at the new Santa Ana campus] and he sounds pleased. The most they would have had [at the Bloomfield site] would have been 460. Sometimes things look bad at the time, but five years from now we will look back and say it was the right thing to do.”

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Chris Ceballos can be reached at (714) 966-7440


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