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Davis Elementary Parents Respond To School’s Potential Closure

The school serves many Deaf and hard-of-hearing students

During a Plano ISD Board meeting on May 21, 2024, a district committee announced the recommended closure of Davis Elementary, Forman Elementary, Armstrong Middle and Carpenter Middle Schools. 

Davis Elementary, however, is a school for both mixed-hearing, deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) children. It not only serves as the local elementary school but also operates as the regional day school program for the Deaf, catering to early childhood and elementary students. Many parents and staff members believe they are left without options when it comes to their Deaf community and fear their children will be left behind if moved to a neighboring schools 

Parents began raising concerns shortly after the May 21 board meeting. According to several parents, the meeting agenda did not explicitly include Davis Elementary and parents were notified of the school’s involvement three minutes after the meeting began. These parents also noted that a sign language interpreter was not present at the meeting.

Update 6/2/24 10:30 a.m. Plano ISD reached out to Local Profile to clarify that items such as this are not included in the agenda. However, due to the sensitive nature, the school did inform parents that evening of the committee's recommendation. 

"The email messages that the Davis, Forman, Armstrong and Carpenter communities received the evening of the board meeting were sent as a courtesy before the committee members presented their recommendation to the board," Plano ISD explained. "This was done so that those campuses would receive information directly from the district before news began to circulate in the media."

The original story continues below. 

Plano ISD told Local Profile that they handle requests for interpretation on an individual basis, assuming the district receives a request by an attendee in advance. 

According to the district, all board meetings are recorded and posted online, and those videos are captioned by the third-party broadcasting vendor within 3 - 5 business days. But due to the critical nature of the meeting on May 21, the district said they posted a captioned recording of the presentation the next morning on a dedicated web page

The district also told Local Profile it strongly values input and feedback the Deaf community. “The district will continue to move forward with having ASL interpreters present at the relevant board meetings related to long-range facility planning and upon receipt of individual requests for accommodations,” Plano ISD said.

One parent, Shawnda Krajca, has an eight-year-old daughter at Davis who is profoundly deaf, meaning she can't hear sounds and communicates with sign language only.

Krajca said the closure of Davis leaves their family with limited options: bus their daughter to a Regional Day School Program for the Deaf (RDSPD) outside of Plano ISD or move to a different area such as Austin to attend the Texas School for the Deaf.

Update 6/2/24 10:30 a.m. Plano ISD noted that the recommendation under consideration proposes relocating the program to a single school. If approved by the Board, students served through the RDSPD, along with several of their non-RDSPD classmates and the entire elementary RDSPD staff, will transition to Harrington Elementary School. This move ensures that students remain within the RDSPD feeder pattern of Haggard Middle School, Vines High School and Plano Senior High School."Families of our RDSPD do not need to find another option as the entire program is being relocated to a nearby elementary campus," Plano ISD said. 

The district underscored it's desire to make the transition as seamless as possible, inlcuding a potential committee, as well as the opportunity for students and families to visit Harrington, orientation sessions and professional development.

The original story continues below. 

But her worries go beyond changing the district. According to Krajca, because her daughter does not use hearing aids, she doesn’t appear to be deaf to others who do not know her. “One of my biggest fears is someone saying, for example, ‘Move out of my way,’ and she doesn't hear them and then it escalates,” Krajca said. “I do not have this fear with her at Davis because I know the hearing kids know about the Deaf kids. They grow up together.” 

The worry about losing their connections at Davis Elementary is mirrored with other parents as well. Parent Erica Salcido told Local Profile that Davis has worked to create a special community with an environment that supports all students, no matter their ability.

“The general culture at Davis is inclusive, respectful and supportive of each other despite audiological and communication differences from their hearing peers,” Salcido said. 

Salcido noted that if Davis closed, her family would choose to leave Plano ISD. “I do not believe that the learning curve that will need to take place at Harrington Elementary is worth risking my child’s academic progress or her social-emotional development,” she said. Salcido added that despite the board’s efforts during the transition, she is left frustrated and feels that the students do not have advocates in this process. 

“I am still frustrated with how uneducated they are about the potential negative impacts this will have on our Deaf students,” Salcido said. “They have not included any Deaf adults in their decision-making process, in their planning committee, or in their board meetings. Our Deaf students are valuable and worth learning about, culturally and historically. Every potential barrier for students needed to be discussed and taken into consideration, which I feel was not done.”

“It is important to note that Plano ISD advertised and offered two Long Range Facility Planning community meetings with sign language interpreters onsite for the presentation and feedback session as well,” the district said in reference to a series of meetings this year. “Again, the voice of all community stakeholders is critical to the District’s success and the District is always working to provide inclusivity and engagement.”

An anonymous source told Local Profile they believe the district is working to better communicate with families as decisions regarding the closure are made. 

"It’s hard to provide concerns when you don’t know what your concerns should be," the parent said. "Going forward, I am hopeful that clear communication will be a priority. Right now it sounds like there are so many unknowns because not much can be done before the board votes to approve or reject the recommendations.  It’s really hard to sit in limbo until things are decided. I do appreciate the school hosting talking sessions so that we have an opportunity to express our concerns."

Kristin Zeito, another parent, said during one of those meetings, the district said a vote on the closure would take place on June 10, 2024, and will be open to the public.

“They don't think the deaf community is worth investing in, and I told them I don't like the message they're sending,” Zeito said. “I want to be no part of it, and I'm not going down without a fight.”

Two of four of Zeito’s children currently attend Davis. Despite the fact that they are not deaf, the kids and parents have created a community within Davis. Both of Zeito’s parents-in-law are deaf and they feel supported during any school events in which they attend. “The deaf community is tight. It's close, and it's got a home at Davis, and now that home is about to be closed for the convenience of Plano,” Zeito said. “I'm just begging the board to choose not to close the doors on the deaf. The world already does that enough.”

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