Living in the ISD campus dorms has provided students a true language immersion environment for 16 decades. Houseparents, residential counselors, cooks, nurses and other staff can all interact with our students using sign language. For some students, coming to Iowa School for the Deaf is their first experience where they can directly communicate with others 24 hours a day. Language continues to be practiced and perfected in the boarding program, developing and enhancing both English and American Sign Language skills.
Students are transported home each Friday (we call it “homegoing”), and transported back to school on Sundays. During event weekends, such as prom, homecoming and Great Plains Schools for the Deaf competitions, high school students sometimes stay on campus while the rest of the student body goes home. Some students who live close enough to go home every day often choose to have a room on campus, which provides them continual social interaction among friends, quick access to homework help and peer assignments, and a fast way “home” after sports practices.
Dorm living is a social, but structured atmosphere. Housed in separate buildings, girls and boys are divided by floors according to age. Most students have private rooms. Staffing is about 1 adult for every 6 students, with round-the-clock supervision. Each floor has a lounge with computers, videophones and large televisions. Similar to college dorms, basic furnishings are provided, including linens. Students are welcome to bring their own mini fridges, televisions, computers, electronics and other comforts from home. Birthdays and special events are celebrated in the dorms. Movie nights, craft and cooking nights, and guest speakers may be other common activities. Dormitory floors also plan nights out to shop, attend captioned movies or take in a local art exhibit.
Students are busy after school. If they aren’t active in sports, group projects are planned, ranging from field trips to service activities, to cheering on their Bobcat teams at sporting events. All activities are planned to broaden student experiences with volunteering, developing healthy life habits, familiarity with resources, self-advocacy and exploring career and leisure interests.
There are dedicated homework hours and study labs for students living in the dorms. Many dorm staff members hold or are working towards attaining deaf education degrees, providing dedicated tutoring. Regular meetings are held among student life staff to ensure each student is thriving at Iowa School for the Deaf. With housing and schooling located on one campus, the student life team and the academic teams are in continual contact with one another, clarifying homework assignments and setting strategies for each child to achieve his academic and social potential.