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Millcreek Journal

Millcreek home to Jean Massieu School of the Deaf

Aug 16, 2021 09:56AM ● By Aloyious Soranno

Utah School for the Deaf summer camp for the Listening and Spoken Language Program for hard of hearing preschoolers. (Courtesy of Todd Keith)

By Aloyious Soranno | [email protected]

Jean Massieu School of the Deaf first opened in 1997 and over the years they have occupied a number of buildings before finding their home in Millcreek. One hundred and seventeen students attend the school for the deaf and 22 students are attending the school for the blind. With a building constructed in 2017, the campus offers features rarely found in other schools around the nation. 

Getting around the school was uniquely designed for all students. The color red is a perfect marking for exits, doors, and stairways, the textures of the walls allow students to feel their way through the hallways while the change in patterns from one wall to the next helps guide student to their desired destination, and the change in flooring from carpet to tile lets the students know that an exit is nearby. 

Classrooms are equipped with digital clocks that have a built-in public address system and TVs are mounted on the walls that are linked to the school’s digital PA system. This allows for the office to send messages directly to that classroom or even all at once. 

But it’s not the technology that makes JMS a special place, it’s the students. 

“When meeting a deaf person for the first time, you may shake hands like with anyone else but to end the conversation, you will probably get a hug. Then from that moment on, that is how the conversation will start and end with that person,” said Nathan Harrison, curriculum director for the Deaf, who explained the caring nature of the students. 

Growing up hard of hearing means communication uses lots of body language and facial expressions. 

“For a lot of these kids, they don’t hear such words as ‘I love you,’ instead they learn to sign it,” Michelle Thomas, associate superintendent of the Deaf said and demonstrates the sign for “I love you.” She recalls times when she sat and participated in activities with the students and received one of these gifts as a thank you for her time. 

Children from all over the state are served by the Utah Schools for the Deaf and the Blind with a number over 4,788. These children are not only enrolled in schools like JMS but they also attend public schools. 

“We send our teachers out to these schools to support the children there,” Thomas said. The support services they offer is an outreach program. 

“They have been known to be called traveling teachers,” Sheri Ramirez, executive assistant for the Deaf said, “or Deaf Education Specialists.” 

Their programs even extend to the summer by providing weekly activities with reading, crafts, and even field trips. 

As far as sports go, there are several options. In the fall, girls have volleyball, in the winter there are both girls and boys basketball teams that play other deaf schools around the West, and in the spring there is ultimate frisbee. 

And then there is goalball. Athletes are blind and because not all of them are 100% blind, they have to wear goggles for fairness. Two teams of three are facing each other on opposite sides of a 59-foot-long court. Behind them is a nearly 30-foot-long goal divided into three sections. Each team takes a turn at rolling a nine-inch ball with bells inside across the court. The opposing team has to listen and feel for the ball in order to stop it. 

Goalball is played at the Paralympics and has been since 1978.