School transforms morning announcements for students: ‘Communication is the most important thing’

Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Morning announcements are a small part of the school day, but they relay a lot of important information to students. And at one local school, those announcements are transformed, so that students can better understand them.

Deaf Awareness Week kicks off at St. Mary’s School for the Deaf on Friday. The school, on Main Street in Buffalo, hopes the week will empower those who are deaf and hard of hearing, and help others to better understand the deaf culture in WNY.

“Our students are able to do anything that somebody who has full access can do… as long as they’re given that access,” Joy Higgins said, the principal at the elementary school.

At St. Mary’s, all 100 students are given as much access as possible. For example, every employee at the school must know sign language, even the janitorial staff. The class sizes are also small. No more than eight kids are in a class.

And that access trickles down to even the most minute activities at the school: including the morning announcements.

Most morning announcements are spoken over a PA system at schools. That’s not the case at St. Mary’s. At the elementary school, they’re done live, in front of the 1st-5th graders, who convene in the front of the school every morning. The Pledge of Allegiance is done in person, and a mini history lesson is done for the start of Deaf Awareness Week.

Next door, in the high school, a mini newscast is edited together and shown on tvs throughout the school every day. The school has a green screen for students to create the visual announcements. It includes the weather, what’s for lunch and other big announcements.

For students at St. Mary’s, access many times means more communication, just in a different way.

“If the students are mainstream, at a public school, there’s a frustration of communication access. Here at St. Mary’s, this is a great place, because we have direct instruction with our students,” said Pamela Rohring said, an ASL and deaf studies teacher at St. Mary’s. “Really, communication is the most important thing for the kids.”

Deaf Awareness Week kicks off at St. Mary’s Friday. There are several events planned throughout the week next week, including free tours of the school on Wednesday.

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