Ohio State School for the Deaf

From Ohio History Central
Ohio State School for the Deaf.jpg
This photograph shows the exterior view of the main building of the State School for the Deaf on Town Street in Columbus, Ohio, 1931. This building was constructed in the late 1860's and used until 1953.

After an official counting of the number of deaf Ohioans in 1823, Reverend James Hoge fought for the foundation of an educational institution for deaf persons in Ohio, leading to the early phases of establishing the Asylum for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb in 1826. By 1827, the Ohio Legislature formed a board of trustees for the founding of the institution, and changed the school's name to the Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb. Due to its central location and close proximity to the Ohio Legislature, Columbus was chosen as the school's location, and the state purchased ten acres on East Town Street for three hundred dollars. However, planning and construction did not start immediately, as most of Ohio's funds were allocated to canal construction, so the state rented a small house on the corner of Broad and High Streets for the school's temporary location. Reverend Horatio N. Hubbell, appointed teacher and superintendent of the Institution in 1828, taught the school's first student, Franklin County resident Samuel Flenniken, a twelve year old deaf boy. Two additional teachers assisted Hubbell in 1831 when the student population increased to 20 to 25 students, and the institute of the Education of the Deaf and Dumb became the fifth residential deaf school in the United States.

The East Town Street location was completed in 1834 for fifteen thousand dollars and could accommodate 60 to 80 students with the intention of accommodating Ohio's future deaf population as well. Originally, tuition for the residential program was eighty dollars per year, but the Ohio Legislature provided nine scholarships, which permitted the recipients to attend the school for free. Children as young as twelve years of age could enroll in the five-year program, which taught basic subjects, like English and math, but also included vocational training. In the second half of the 19th century, the school hired deaf tradesmen to teach students in its vocational shops. Unlike Ohio's public schools, the academic year for the Institution for the Education of the Deaf and Dumb started in October, after the fall harvest, and continued through the end of July.

Much of the students' curriculum focused on areas outside basic school subjects. Male students could take printing, book binding, and participate in the school's daily newspaper The Ohio Chronicle. The Institution's Sewing Department offered courses for female students. Carpentry, cabinet making, and tailoring became part of the curriculum in 1870 with the construction of a new vocational building. Over the next seventy years, the Ohio Legislature authorized the construction of several additional structures, including both school buildings and dormitories. In 1904, the school had its highest attendance to date, with enrollment at 532 students. At this time, the Institution's name changed to the Ohio State School for the Deaf, and the Ohio department of Education assumed control of the school. By 1941, the Ohio State School for the Deaf's East town Street buildings were severely dilapidated and the Ohio Legislature authorized the purchase of 235 acres in northeastern Columbus for relocating the school, as well as the Ohio State School for the Blind. Construction of the new facility was delayed until after World War II and the completion of the state highway system. Eventually, the campus included eleven buildings, including classrooms, dormitories, and recreational and vocational training buildings.

After the enactment of a new federal law (Public Law 94-142) in 1975, and work-study programming offered to students with disabilities in 1976, public schools were required to offer educational programming for students with physical and mental disabilities, and enrollment at the Ohio State School for the Deaf gradually decreased. By 1989, the school's student population ranged from three to twenty-two years old with 45 staff members dedicated to providing specialized services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and art instruction, in addition to a health clinic staffed by registered nurses who offered a variety of services. Students could participate in intramural sports after school hours.

The Ohio State School for the Deaf celebrated its 175th Anniversary in 2004 with the dedication of a bronze historical marker in Alumni Park on the school's campus. In 2013, the school built a new building and dormitories, and its campus currently spans 22 buildings total with a student population of nearly 200.

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