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Don't Erase School For Deaf History In NL

Deaf News: Don't erase school for Deaf history: former administrator.

ST. JOHN'S, NL -- The Telegram: John Reade points through windows of the former School for the Deaf and rhymes off classrooms and labs and how they were designed with no obstructions to students' ability to follow instruction.

John Reade recalls the home economics teacher who designed her own classroom and others who contributed ideas that made it easier for the students of the specialized facility.

His voice fills with pride as he recalls the Queen Elizabeth II's visit in the 1990s.

He remembers how he and other staff would visit the site in the mid-1980s when it was under construction and look over the foundation footings, imagining what would be a state of the art facility.

Before moving to Topsail Road, the school was located in an old military building by the airport and the windows would shake when planes took off and landed, wreaking havoc on those students who had hearing aids, he said.

Though many people in St. John's refer to it as the old School for the Deaf, there are no visible markings of that history and Reade said they disappeared two years ago.

The facility has had many uses since the school closed several years ago.

One wing now houses the school lunch program and it's filled in as temporary location for students from schools under construction.

The inquiry into the Donald Dunphy shooting is the latest tenant.

Reade, a former administrator who started teaching at the School for the Deaf in 1975, was leading a charge to have plaques returned to the school façade - one marked its opening and another a visit by Prince Edward.

While those plaques were removed, there remains on the grounds a memorial to the old sanatorium that once occupied the site.

Reade said he and a group of alumni want to see the plaques put back where they were on the brick façade, but even a marking beside the sanatorium plaque "would be something."

After The Telegram looked into the controversy, inquiring with the province and the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District about the issue, the board said late Friday it intends to have the two plaques reinstated next week.

Reade has been cataloging artifacts from the school - including a Steve Jobs-autographed early Apple that he said was bound for the trash when the Department of Education shuttered the school. He wants The Rooms to collect the artifacts.

He said it was only this summer during a come home year, that students realized the plaques had been removed from the school.

So Reade wrote to both Education Minister Dale Kirby and the English School District last month. He has no qualms with it being reused for other things, but lamented removal of its legacy.

"That building has a very important history," said Reade.

Prior to 1964 all children who were classified as Deaf were sent to first Montreal and later to Halifax for their education, Reade noted in his letter to officials.

In 1964, the Smallwood government decided to open a school for Deaf children in Pleasantville and the next year the school was moved to the U.S. barracks built in 1940 at the Torbay airport, Reade said.

In 1987, the students and staff moved into the modern Topsail Road building, but it was closed in 2010 with the province siting a lack of student enrolment.

"This building was much more than a school for four generations of Deaf Newfoundlanders. For some, it was a place of refuge from being bullied as being 'different,'" Reade said. "Through the (school's) home parent program, parents were taught how to communicate with their children and provide them with a basic language of everyday items that hearing children learn incidentally.

"(It) became a home away from home, an educational oasis, a place of acceptance, a recreation center, and most importantly, the introduction to Deaf Culture."

When the building was still known as the School for the Deaf, the Deaf community took pride in visiting and reminiscing about their time there and activities such as theatre productions by and for the Deaf or sports, he said.

"Now that the plaques were removed that dedicated the school by Premier (Brian) Peckford and commemorating the visit by Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex the Deaf community, as a whole, feels as if they have been kicked in the stomach - again," Reade said.

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