With the passing of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, major changes took place with the education of deaf and hard of hearing students. Over the ensuing years, more and more children were mainstreamed into public schools and were provided with ASL interpreters. This caused a steep decline in the enrollment at state schools for the deaf.
Private schools for the deaf also saw enrollment numbers fall and some, such as St. John School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, were eventually closed.
Despite all of this, St. Rita School for the Deaf in Cincinnati, Ohio, continues to carry on its 100 year mission of providing educational services to deaf and hard of hearing students from kindergarten to grade 12. The school, which was founded by Catholic priest Henry J. Waldhaus in 1915, was built on 237 acres of land in Evendale, a suburb of Cincinnati.
Working with three Sisters of Charity nuns, Reverend Waldhaus launched St. Rita with 11 deaf students. A brief moment in time was captured at the school in 1918 when local photographer J.B. Schmidt photographed St. Rita students signing the Star Spangled Banner. This photo is now part of the National Archives (165-WW-77E-3) and was later used by Gallaudet University for publication in “History Through Deaf Eyes.”
Over the next 100 years, the school has gone on to send its graduates out into the world to pursue careers and post-secondary studies.
St. Rita School will be celebrating its centennial year with mime shows, field trip activities, the annual summer festival, and an alumni weekend celebration.