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Hope for blind school

Community members work out how to fill need
By: Gus Thomson Journal Staff Writer
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Things are looking up for Auburn’s school for the blind. The 34-year-old Placer Visual Center is being shut down by the Placer School for Adults because of budget cutbacks. The school’s final day will be Aug. 13. Over the past week, however, teacher Eileen Boyce and students who attend life and activity skills classes have been heartened by efforts to relocate and continue the program with volunteers in Loomis and Auburn. The Loomis offer of a new home would be on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Senior Life Center. It will offer arts and crafts, as well as exercise and painting. Boyce said transportation for participants outside Loomis is still being worked out. Closer to Auburn, a Downtown church is in the midst of making a decision on providing a space on Wednesdays for mobility, Braille and independent living skills instruction. Volunteers would be running both programs and they would start in September. State and local spending cuts have forced the adult school to shave 20 percent off its expenditures, dropping this year’s budget to $1.7 million. Eight of the school’s 26 full-time teachers are being let go. Lou Richards, whose macular degeneration has caused decreasing sight since 1980, said the move to new locations is a welcome one, particularly in the face of having no classes at all. “We’re going to miss this location though,” Richards said. “Everyone has been used to it for so many years.” On Wednesday, about a dozen adult students were attending classes at the school, which is located in a building once used as a World War II hospital ward and is now part of Placer County’s DeWitt Center complex. “I’m looking forward to be able to continue one way or another,” said Elsie Vowell of Auburn. “I’ve learned a lot and met nice people. I’m hoping to continue the association.” As part of the move, the school will hold its last craft fair from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 28, 29 and 30. Student-made crafts, including wind chimes, baskets, jewelry and hand-painted step stools, will be sold. Because the school is losing its affiliation with the public school system, proceeds will be donated. Boyce said it’s possible the proceeds will be donated to the organizations that will continue classes. The Journal’s Gus Thomson can be reached at gust@goldcountrymedia.com.