Big Changes Afoot at Clarke School,
By Mike Kirby and Edward Shanahan
As the Clarke School for the Deaf re-evaluates the role of its home campus atop Round Hill, the first steps have been taken to dispose of some of the school’s choice real estate.
In 2004, a large house owned by the school at 83 Bancroft Road with an assessed value of $230,000 was sold by the school to Robert Jonas and Margaret Bullitt of Ashfield for $675,000 and is currently being remodeled by Wright Builders.
A second large property at 88 Round Hill Road – the so-called Yale House - was sold in October for $690,000 to Oliver Iselin and Deborah S. Oakley. That structure is currently undergoing extensive renovations for conversion to four high-end condominiums, which are on the market for $475,000 each, according to David Murphy of Murphy Real Estate.
In the wake of these sales of school property, a spokesman for the school, who declined to be identified, confirmed for downstreet.net that changes in the future direction of the Clarke School will likely result in the continuing shrinking of its Northampton campus.
83 Bancroft Road
Neighbors have also confirmed that there are concerns among nearby homeowners about what the impact of such a downsizing and property disposal might mean for them.
Other Clarke School properties that are being considered for possible sale are 84A Round Hill Road, which is situated next to Yale House, and structures at 32 and 38 Round Hill Road that occupy a large tract that extends all the way from Round Hill Road to the rear of residential properties on Langworthy Road.
Even as the school considers marketing more of its property, the spokesman said in an interview that Clarke School is alive and well and growing. In fact, in the last few years, the school has established satellite campuses in the Boston area, Philadelphia, New York City and Jacksonville, Fla., to meet the changing nature of educating the hearing-impaired population.
According to the school spokesman, staff and the board of trustees of the 138-year-old institution are working on a plan “to take them into the 21st Century.”
Meanwhile, the 2004 Clarke School graduating class consisted of only nine students. With a dwindling number of residential students, there is less need for a large on-campus staff and extensive and expensive buildings and grounds.
Round Hill Road Condominiums
The 18.4 acre campus is big and old fashioned, and supports its own separate
heating plant and an elegant home for its president. It has an infirmary, a
$2 million gym, and 17 buildings valued by the city for tax purposes at over
The buildings sit on some of the most marketable real estate in the valley,
and the zoning on the school’s vacant land permits intensive development. Some of the zoning allows for multi-family development, while there is also zoning that encourages single family homes, and permits some cluster housing.
The school's success over the decades and generations was the mainstreaming of deaf and hearing-impaired children by teaching them to lip read and talk. It was an approach that was and is still heavily supported by parents who want their children to function as speaking adults. The other major school of therapeutics teaches people to lip read and use American Sign Language (ASL) as a way of communicating.
Clarke School drew students to Northampton from abroad and all 50 states. But now the school is dealing with new technological changes: improved screening that enables doctors and parents to identify a deaf child at birth, and cochlear implants that enable deaf people to overcome the effects of nerve-deafness.
Unlike a hearing aid which amplifies or makes sound clearer, the process surgically implants a device that bypasses a person's dysfunctional inner ear, and transmits electrical signals. The technology is about 30 years old, but the devices are being improved steadily. Although they are expensive (around $40,000), they help people to lip read more successfully if they are able to integrate the cues that the implant and watching lips provide.