Since we last wrote about the Iowa Braille School, and the discussion among Vinton residents concerning if, how and when the city should assume ownership of the campus, a lot has happened behind the scenes in Cedar Falls, and Des Moines.

At the UNI campus in Cedar Falls, Director Drew Conrad and his staff and students in the Institute for Decision Making have been compiling the hundreds of suggestions received during the Expo early in April. At that event, residents stopped by several displays in the VSHS gym to offer suggestions about possible uses for the facility for business, education, tourism, and other possible uses.

Tonight, Conrad and his people will present their findings to the local committee. No action will be taken; the meeting is designed to compile all of the ideas and to begin determining what area residents believe is the best course of action.  The community is still in the very early stages of this process, with no decisions or even recommendations expected for several weeks or months.

Visioning committee member Ann Jorgensen said that the Regents funded the UNI Institute study because the Regents are committed to making this transition work for Vinton, should the city decide to accept the offer to assume ownership of the property.

In Des Moines, the IBSSS campus issue was on the minds of legislators, including those who represent the Vinton area, State Sen. Tim Kapucian and State Rep. Dawn Pettengill.

There was an attempt in the state legislature to add language concerning the IBSSS campus to an education appropriations bill that “basically gave the Regents the ability to sell it to anyone at any time,” says Pettengill, who added that as soon as she found out about it, she brought it up in a caucus — a meeting of fellow Republicans.

“After a discussion in caucus, we had the amended out in the House, and the Senate kept it that way,” says Pettengill, adding that she and Kapucian also worked on getting language put into legislation that “helps facilitate whatever Vinton wants to do (yes or no on the sale), but keeps code 270.10 the same for anyone else the Regents might want to sell it to.”

Iowa Code 270.10 provides some specific guidelines for what has to happen in order for the Board of Regents to sell or close either the Braille School or the Iowa School for the Deaf.

In an email to city leaders, Pettengill indicated that the new legislation makes the following changes to 270.10; the bill has not yet been signed into law

Sec. 24. Section 270.10, Code 2017, is amended to read as follows:

270.10 Merger requirements.

1. The state board of regents shall not merge the school for the deaf at Council Bluffs with the Iowa braille and sight

saving school at Vinton or close either of those institutions until all of the following requirements have been met:

1. a. The department of management has presented to the general assembly a comprehensive plan, program, and fiscal analysis of the existing circumstances and the circumstances which would prevail upon the proposed merger or closing,together with data which would support the contention that the merger or closing will be more efficient and effective than continuation of the existing facilities. The analysis shall include a detailed study of the educational implications of the merger or closing, the impact on the students, and the opinions and research of nationally recognized experts in the field of the education of visually impaired and deaf students. The comprehensive plan shall further include a study relating to the programming, fiscal consequences, and political implications which would result if either a merger or an agreement under chapter 28E should be implemented between the school for the deaf in Council Bluffs and comparable state programs in the state of Nebraska.

               2. b. The general assembly has studied the plans, programs, and fiscal analysis and has reviewed their impact on the

               programs.

               3. c. The general assembly has enacted legislation authorizing either the closing or the merger to take effect not

               sooner than two years after the enactment of the legislation.

New section to allow you to protect the city, so they can go whichever way they want to.

2. This section shall not apply to an agreement related to the sale or transfer of the property of the Iowa braille and

sight saving school at Vinton entered into between the state of Iowa and the city of Vinton.

  1. “Notwithstanding section 270.10, the state board of regents may, at its discretion, sell or otherwise dispose of the Iowa braille and sight saving school in Vinton, and the land on which the property is located, by any procedure that is adopted by the board.”