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NEISD staff and volunteers make masks with windows for students who read lips

There are more than 200 students with hearing impairments in NEISD. The district is making hundreds of masks to accommodate them when they get back to the classroom.

SAN ANTONIO — A mask with a window. It's a simple thought making communication more clear at North East ISD.

Masks have been in the headlines for months, but many of us haven't considered how they make it impossible for those with hearing problems to read lips. 

Patricia Garcia is the program coordinator for the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Visually Impaired. She said one of her students was worried about going back to school. Her thought was if she couldn't understand the lesson, why should she bother coming in?

"That broke my heart and made me think, we need to do something," Garcia said. "I don't want anyone to feel like they can't get an education when they come to school."

Garcia teamed up with Jan Greer DeHaven, the director of Special Education Services for NEISD. They found directions for masks with "windows" online and got to work.

"I've been making masks all along, probably about 120 of the regular ones," Greer DeHaven said. "It takes me closer to 30 minutes to make one of these."

Greer Dehaven said as of now, they have about 700 masks. Their hope is to have 1,500 by the time school starts in mid-August. They've got about 40 volunteers working hard to make that happen.

"NEISD cares," Greer DeHaven said. "We care about each one of our students, each one of our teachers and we want to make sure everyone has what they need as we try to come back together in our new world."

Garcia is working on a plan to collaborate with Northside ISD and San Antonio ISD, the other two districts in the city that have a Regional Day School Program. 

"I know those districts are looking for volunteers as well," Garcia said. 

Greer DeHaven said they'll happily give whatever extra masks they have to neighboring districts. They've already shared their designs with other people in the area who are hard of hearing. 

"I'm somebody that says, 'we've got to do the right thing,'" Greer DeHaven said. "I think what's important to remember is that we're not the only school district that needs this."

Garcia said there are more than 200 students with hearing impairments in NEISD. About 60 children are in the Regional Day School Program for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Visually Impaired. The others are mainstreamed with their peers at other campuses throughout the district.

Greer DeHaven still looking for volunteers who can help them reach their goal. If you're interested in helping out with the project, you can email her at jdehav@neisd.net.

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