The American School for the Deaf was established in 1817 as the first permanent school for the deaf in the United States. We offer a pre-k through 12th grade academic program, as well as a Residential Treatment Program (our PACES program) for deaf and hard of hearing students with behavioral and emotional challenges. In 2018, we expanded our PACES program to serve hearing non-verbal students on the Autism Spectrum who benefit from our visual communication approach. Our current enrollment is 149 students, and we offer year-round programs, which include an extended school year program, and an overnight camp, Camp Isola Bella.
Prior to March 2020
Prior to March 2020, our in-person classes were held on our campus. While we remained connected with parents and families through a wide range of communication options (phone, e-mail, videophone, etc.), most meetings were held in-person.
During March-June 2020
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the American School for the Deaf shifted all classes to a remote learning platform beginning April 1, 2020. Students participated in daily online learning days, and teachers used a variety of platforms (Zoom, Google Classroom) to meet the individual needs of their students. ASD provided technology support to students and teachers as necessary, and we worked with parents and families to determine other needs (school supplies, food, shelter, etc.). Our school counselors conducted frequent “check-ins” with our students and their families to maintain a pulse on how they were managing during these challenging times.
Due to generous community donations, we were able to provide support to our students and their families in the form of gift cards, grocery deliveries, and housing assistance. While ASD’s academic program moved to an online learning platform, our PACES Residential Treatment program remained in operation, and approximately 25 students remained on campus throughout the pandemic. Because of this, the continued health and safety of these students has been of paramount importance. Mandatory health screening procedures for all staff and campus visitors were established, along with extensive cleaning procedures.
Protocols were also established in our cafeteria to allow our students to enjoy their meals in a safe and sanitary environment. In addition to ASD’s conversion to an online learning platform, most staff adapted to a remote work schedule and have worked diligently to keep moving ASD forward.
How the School Rose to the Challenge
While the current health crisis has presented a great deal of challenges, unexpected opportunities and strengths have also become evident. ASD’s staff have truly risen to the occasion and demonstrated a true commitment to the well-being of our students and general school community. In May, we held a vehicle parade through campus for our students enrolled in our PACES program and who have remained at school throughout the duration of the pandemic. A call for participants was made, and over 95 staff came together for the parade. It was amazing to witness the joy on our students’ faces and the pride among our teachers and staff.
In addition, our greater community (including our Board of Directors and donors) have come together to support our students and their families through generous financial contributions. In one weekend, over $15,000 was donated in support of our Giving Hand fund, which allows ASD to provide support to our students and families in need. This fund has been used to provide gift cards, grocery deliveries and housing assistance to our families in need. One family contacted ASD at the beginning of the pandemic with a request for housing assistance. She and her family were forced to move from their home and did not have the funds to support the security deposit and first month’s rent of a new home. Through the Giving Hand fund, we were able to provide this support to this family, for which they continue to be grateful. ASD has always been a true community, and COVID-19 has reinforced the reality that we are all here for the benefit of our students.
Where the School is Now
ASD continues to monitor the latest State guidance related to the response to COVID-19. We are continuing to offer our extended school year summer program, through both online classes and in-person learning. Though overnight camps have been prohibited in Connecticut this summer, we will provide a four-day day camp (not overnight) for our students enrolled in the PACES program and who have remained on our main campus throughout the pandemic. We continue to monitor State guidance to determine when school will re-open.
If one thing has been learned throughout this pandemic, it is the importance of flexibility. We have seen and acknowledged that we are able to adapt in a crisis, and this gives us the confidence that we can meet any challenge we may face. We continue to monitor State guidance to determine when school will re-open, and how best to do so.
Superintendent: Jeffrey S. Bravin