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The Stovall School closing at the North Mississippi Regional Center?

By Kate Royals

Mississippi Today

After a 30-year stint at a specialized school for children and adults with severe disabilities, teacher Susan McPhail is wondering whether she will have a job after recovering from an upcoming knee surgery.

The Stovall School at the North Mississippi Regional Center, one of the state’s five regional intellectual and developmental disability programs, could be another casualty of the $14.4 million in budget cuts to the Department of Mental Health this fiscal year, according to employees and community members. Elimination of an Early Intervention Program, which provided evaluations and therapeutic services to some 350 infants and children under three years old and employed three people, has already been announced.

Employees shocked

McPhail said she and other staff members at Stovall were told in a May 16 meeting with administrators that it is possible the school would be shut down altogether due to budget cuts.

“We were all kind of in shock,” she recalled. “I asked the question: ‘You said it was possible our program would be shutting down. Is it probable?’ And they looked right at me and said yes.”

McPhail said North Mississippi Regional Center director Edith Hayles attended the meeting.

Students learn life skills

All of the 68 students who attend the Stovall School live on the NMRC campus. At Stovall, they learn life skills ranging from managing money in one of the more traditional classrooms to putting away groceries and doing laundry in a classroom featuring a model apartment. While there are some students whose disabilities are so profound they will never be able to leave NMRC, the goal for other students is to enable them to live a more independent life at home.

Hayles directed questions from Mississippi Today to B.J. Davis, director of public information and volunteers at North Mississippi Regional Center, who said no final decisions about the school have been made as of Thursday.

“NMRC will continue to meet the needs of the individuals we serve and provide the supports required so they can maintain their highest level of independence. However, how the budget will impact any specific NMRC program such as Stovall school has yet to be determined,” Davis said in an emailed response.