No choice at all

Closing the Governor Morehead School must not happen. It offers critical education for the blind.

September 28, 2011 

Tonight, beginning at 5:30 at Raleigh's City Council chambers, members of the public will be afforded the chance to speak out about the possible closing of the Governor Morehead School for the blind in Raleigh, an institution that first came to life in the mid-1800s and has made life better for many hundreds of people. The option of closing it, brought about by a legislative budget that sliced up many services for the poor and the sick, is a frightening prospect.

This school, on a rolling campus just west of downtown Raleigh, educates visually impaired people from kindergarten through high school, and provides opportunities for work training. It is of particular importance to people from communities where other services for the blind aren't available, and for those who have severe limitation and would have difficulty being "mainstreamed" in public schools, for example.

It is a compassionate, lively, generous and profoundly important place. Lives change for the better there. It's that simple.

The school, currently with 45 students enrolled, is named for a man, Gov. John Motley Morehead, who cared about such people. He recognized that such a place (it started as a school for the blind and the deaf) would be good for them and a badge of honor for North Carolina.

But state lawmakers have essentially decreed that one of three schools for the handicapped must close. That means Morehead, or one of two schools for the deaf, one in Wilson and one in Morganton. This is a sorry and unacceptable choice. How easy it is, sitting in a monogrammed chair on Jones Street, to simply consider wiping out a place that will help children learn and raise their horizons, even if they cannot see them. How easy it is to cut here, cut there and kick the infirm and handicapped to the curb to balance the books.

That the choice would come to this is nothing short of a disgrace to a state that has touted such places as evidence that North Carolina cares about all citizens, that it further recognizes that those citizens are of value, that they can accomplish great things in life if given opportunity. And they have.

At the least, these students have had a chance they might not have had. And at the most ...

One well-known person often associated with Morehead is Arthel Lane Watson, born in 1923 near Deep Gap in the North Carolina mountains. Doc Watson was well in his 40s by the time he found fame as one of the world's foremost guitar players. What he learned at Morehead as a youth has served him well in his long and famous life, giving him an independence that continues to amaze his friends to this day. And then there was Ronnie Milsap, who rose to the top of the country music charts and continues to tour. He still stays in touch with his friends from Morehead.

If ever there were a place that returned to North Carolina (and the world) dividends representing many times the investment made, it is the Governor Morehead School. And so it should always be.

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