LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A recent social media post from a state senator is shedding light on the conditions at two schools in the state: the Arkansas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the School for the Deaf.
In a late October thread on X, Sen. Clarke Tucker said he had mixed emotions about his visit with other legislators to the two schools. While “astounded” at the work being done by the faculty and students, he said his heart sank at some of the conditions inside the school.
Photos in his post show walls and ceilings torn up, and he referenced a pool at the School for the Deaf that students are not able to get in because the roof is falling in.
KARK 4 News requested interviews with faculty and video of the inside of buildings on campus, though the Arkansas Department of Education- who is over both state-funded schools- declined the request because of the privacy of students who live on school grounds.
The mom of a fifth grader at the School for Blind and Visually Impaired, however, did agree to an interview. Tiffany, who is not giving her last name for privacy purposes, said Tucker’s tweet is accurate based on her son’s experience. She said it is important to bring attention to the needs of the schools right now.
“The school is a beautiful building with incredible staff and teachers, but it’s falling apart,” Tiffany said. “It’s plaster falling off the walls, it’s chunks of the floor that the linoleum is long gone.”
Tiffany said the windows inside her son’s dorms need to be upgraded as well.
“There’s cracks around the windows, there’s hardly any insulation so at night he gets super cold,” she said. “He has to sleep with a winter coat on. We’ve had to send extra blankets.”
Tiffany also said she believes there needs to be more funding for the schools to hire more staff members.
“I do get the sense sometimes that it’s forgotten,” she said. “I think when people don’t have the issues right in front of them, they forget that there are people around the community that are different and have different struggles. These kids, because they’re in a special school, doesn’t mean that they’re less deserving.”
The spokesperson for the Arkansas Department of Education sent a statement in response to the issue.
“Governor Sanders and Secretary Oliva have said they would disrupt the failed status quo that has been failing our students for far too long. We recently invited legislators to tour the schools, so they could see firsthand the condition and issues with the facilities,” the statement said. “We will continue to work closely with the Governor’s Office and the legislature to develop a solution that ensures students have a thriving environment in which to learn.”
Senator Tucker’s tweet said he is also hopeful to see progress in the future thanks to work from the state and legislators.
“The attention the schools are now getting from the state gives me hope that solutions are within reach,” Tucker said. “As state lawmakers, we are accountable for ensuring the care of these schools & their students. I’m hopeful we’ll work together to address the pressing facility concerns.”