By Kalyn Story | Staff Writer
The Christian Academy for the Deaf in Waco is still in a fundraising stage, but the president of the board said the board hopes to open the school in fall 2017.
Lewis Lummer, president of The Christian Academy for the Deaf Board and Baylor American Sign Language professor, said he wanted to start a school for deaf children in Waco because he believes the programs for deaf students at hearing schools in Waco are not meeting deaf children’s needs. He said he wanted it to be a Christian school because in America only about 1 percent of the deaf population is Christian.
“Deaf children- those kids need to be able to have a vision, and that starts with language,” Lummer said. “Signed language is the foundation for social justice. Deaf people can’t be pushed aside. Language is important – they need the ability to be able to express themselves.”
Gallaudet University, a private liberal arts university for the deaf and hard of hearing in Washington D.C., estimates there are about 357,574 people with hearing disability in Texas, about 2.3 percent of the population.
According to The Christian Academy for the Deaf’s website, its goal is “to provide a seat of learning and research for children who are deaf or hard of hearing to receive an exemplary education without discrimination or restraint using American Sign Language as the accessible language of instruction with dual literacy in English.”
Lummer said now in the Waco area, most deaf kids are homeschooled or attend hearing school with some type of assistance.
“We need to have a school here in this community for kids whose first language is sign language,” Lummer said. “Kids will learn better in their language surrounded by people within their culture.”
The school’s mission expresses a desire for a safe place where deaf children can grow in the Lord while receiving exemplary, accessible academic instruction that meets their communication, emotional and social needs in American Sign Language. In its mission statement, The Christian Academy for the Deaf cites Ephesians 6:4- “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” as a reason deaf children need a Christian educational option in Waco.
Gladwater senior Emilye Harris, a deaf education major at Baylor, said she was excited when she heard about The Christian Academy for the Deaf and cannot wait for it to open.
“It is so vital for deaf students to not only be taught in their most natural language, but also to have an environment of peers that share their same culture, experiences and language,” Harris said. “Having a fully accessible environment gives students the chance to grow and learn to their greatest potential.”
Harris specifically pointed out benefits to having the option to attend a school exclusively for deaf students as opposed to attending a public school with aid.
“While having interpreters in a mainstream school is an awesome option that gives students access to learning, it doesn’t have the same effect as a deaf school where kids can build relationships, learn collaboratively and never be left behind,” Harris said.
Lummer said the school’s board is made up of four deaf members and three hearing members who are active in the Waco community.
“For a long time, the world has ignored deaf children, and this school is going to help be a model for the world to see,” Lummer said.
Lummer said the school still has a significant amount of money to raise before it is able to open, but he is hopeful for fall 2017 enrollment.