Serving Children since 1886. Nationally Accredited

Educational Program


Contact:Sean McCormick

Admissions Contact:Sean McCormick

The Washington State School for the Blind, under the direction of the Governor, is fully accredited by the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (K-12) and is a residential school for blind and partially sighted students of school age who are residents of the state of Washington.

Beginning with preschool intervention, parent consultation, and continuing through the enrollment years, totally blind and partially sighted children receive a quality education guided by trained and experienced personnel. Educational programming is provided for students up to the age of 21, or through the age of 21 if the student's birthday occurs after the beginning of the school year. Not all WSSB students are totally blind. Many have sufficient vision to use large print for reading, low vision aids, and other materials in their education.

During the school year, on campus programs include classes for students in middle school through high school. A one afternoon a week elementary enrichment program is being offered fall, 2012. More information will be available soon. A variety of summer programs are also offered each year. Information on the summer offerings will be available in early spring on the website.

School Support
School year
Middle School Program
Secondary Academic
Graduation Requirements
Senior Project Description
Distance Learning
Occupational Studies
LIFTT Program
Student Progress Reports
Supplies and materials
Daily Living Skills
Independent Travel
WSSB Graduate Data Follow Up
Mobility/Walking Papers

School Support

The Washington State School for the Blind derives the greatest portion of its support from the citizens of the state. Tuition, trans­portation, board, room, limited medical care, and limited educational materials are provided without cost to the parents of every child who is found eligible for attendance if the child is a resident of the state of Washington. Parents are required to pay for clothing, personal expenses, medical costs, and some school supplies. Students are responsible for keeping necessary school supplies on hand to adequately meet the needs of their educational programs. These basic school supplies includes two sets of headphones (to be used with JAWS), pens, pencils, notebooks, and one ream of copy paper. A student's first long cane is provided at no cost. Additional canes or folding canes are provided at cost to the students.
In general, personnel working in the administration, instruction, residence, building and grounds area, and other support services are paid from general operation funds. These funds are appropriat­ed by the state legislature.

Other funds which are designated for specific projects may come from private or government grants. Revenue secured from such sources are set in special accounts, and persons working on these projects are paid from such accounts. The Washington State School for the Blind encourages parents, teachers, and other interested parties to make suggestions regarding possible programs worthy of funding through alternative grants.


The Washington State School for the Blind, like other school districts in the state, has 180 school days per year. In order for your child to benefit from our program, it is imperative that your child be in attendance. If the student reaches seven unexcused absences in any month or ten unexcused absences in the current school year, the school is required to file a petition in juvenile court alleging a violation of Washington State’s mandatory attendance law.


The middle school program consists of students in grades 6-8 and focuses on an integrated learning style, with reading, writing, language arts, and math as a focus. Braille, daily living skills, and mobility, study skills and technology are emphasized.


The secondary academic program consists of students in grades 9-12 and focuses on an integrat­ed learning style with reading, writing, language arts and math as a focus. Braille, daily living skills, mobility, study skills, and technology are emphasized. This program leads to a fully accredited high school diploma which is recognized by post-secondary schools and colleges. Graduation requirements are listed below.


Students attending the Washington State School for the Blind are required to meet standards for program completion for their prescribed course of study in order to earn a diploma. The prescribed course of study includes a minimum of credits in selected courses and/or evidence that the student's Individualized Education Program (IEP) has satisfactorily met the student's needs and credit requirements.

Graduation from the Washington State School for the Blind with an academic diploma requires 23.0 credits, with the following requirements:

  • Language Arts/English - 4 credits
  • Social Studies - 2 credits
  • Contemporary World Problems - 1 credit
  • Science - 2 credits
  • Mathematics - 3 credits
  • Physical Education - 3 credits
  • Occupational/Career Education/Work Experience - 1.5 credit
  • Arts - 1 credit
  • Electives - 5 credits
  • Senior Project .5

Washington State History may be taken either in the middle school or high school program.

Class standings will be determined as follows:

  • Freshman 0-6 credits
  • Sophomore 6-12 credits
  • Junior 12-17 credits
  • Senior 7+ credits

Since the program at the Washington School for the Blind is totally individualized to meet both academic and adaptive needs of the students enrolled, movement from one class standing to another may occur at any time.  Also, in order to obtain maximum benefit and skill mastery from the program, students may choose to spend from 3 to 6 years to complete their high school studies.

Senior Project Description

The senior project is a requirement for graduation. The goal is to integrate the knowledge and skills gained thought the high school experience with exploration into real life experiences available in the community.

Components: 1) A written research paper; 2) A project; 3) A formal presentation.

Student choice: Student generated topics allow for real work experiences. Students are encouraged to venture into any area of study where they have an interest, curiosity, or simply an urge for exploration. Proposals will be submitted for review and approval to insure that the Senior Project is a reasonable and thoughtful choice for the student.

Community involvement: Students will have the opportunity to work with members of the community who have consented to serve as mentors for the various projects.

Class standings will be determined as follows: Freshman: 0-6 credits, Sophomore: 6-12 credits, Junior: 12-17 credits, Senior: 17+ credits.

Since the program at the Washington School for the Blind is totally individualized to meet both academic and adaptive needs of the students enrolled, movement from one class standing to another may occur at any time. Also, in order to obtain maximum benefit and skill mastery from the program, students may choose to spend from 3 to 6 years to complete their high school studies.


During the fall of 2003, WSSB embarked on a new program that has the potential of providing services to students both on and off campus. These services (classes) are provided in a digital environment through on-line classes from interactive video to web based learning. The school also participates with  the “Digital Learning Department,” based at the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. This partnership has opened up hundreds of additional class options for students.

Occupational Studies Program

The Occupational Studies Program is for students from ages 14 to 21. The team stresses those skills necessary for independent living. Daily living skills, leisure and recreational and vocational skills provide the focus for these students. For those who have academic ability, those capacities become immediately functional with regard to daily activities. Students are involved in motor activities throughout the day whether it be dressing or vocational endeavors. Students in the Occupational Studies program are issued a diploma upon graduation based upon completion of IEP goals and objectives.


Learning Independence For Today and Tomorrow: A program to teach skills for adulthood to young adults who are blind/visually impaired.


For young adults (generally 18-21 years) who have completed high school graduation requirements but need additional training to successfully transition to post high school life.


1. Education is a joint responsibility of the home and school. Homework plays a significant role in student achievement. In keeping with WSSB’s philosophy of mastery learning, teacher will make assignments according to the needs of the pupil. In order for homework to be meaningful, evaluation by the teacher is mandatory. Time suggestions for daily homework are as follows:

  • Grades 1-2              30 minutes

  • Grades 3-4              45 minutes

  • Grades 5-5              1 hour

  • Grades 7-12            2 hours (all subjects)

2. The following guidelines may be used, keeping in mind the appropriate modalities of learning:

a. Secondary Academic: one-half hour assignment per academic class 3 times a week. This may include weekends.

b. Upper Elementary: 15-20 minutes, two to three times per week.

c. Occupational Studies: As ability allows, one-half hour per day.
May include such activities as:
(a) practice of academic skills;
(b) journal writing;
(c) information gathering;
(d) completion of in-class projects.

3. At the end of each day teachers should notify cottage staff a list of all students who did not complete their work.

4. Students will have access to the library and technology for completing assignments.

5. Secondary academic students should register with Recordings for the Blind and Dyslexic for additional materials.


Quarterly progress reports are mailed to parents following the end of each nine‑week period. These reports provide parents with information on how their child is progressing in classes and toward meeting their IEP goals. Copies are also mailed to the student's local education agency (LEA) to keep the local school system informed of the student's prog­ress.

Midterm progress reports are sent home when students are in danger of failing a class. Grade recovery plans can be implemented when students are in danger of failing.


It is expected that each student will provide his/her own school supplies for the completion of assignments and class projects. Suggested supplies for different grade levels can be found on the WSSB web site.

For those items which cannot be purchased locally, WSSB will provide a small supply store to sell such items. This would include braille paper, abaci, slate and stylus, braille rulers, etc. Necessary equipment such as braille writers will be checked out to students in their cottages or at home as needed. Refundable deposits for equipment may be charged to cover the cost of damage and repair.

WSSB will give to each student (as appropriate) his/her first long cane as part of the instructional process. Lost canes will not be replaced free of charge. Folding or specialty canes may be purchased.

It is expected that students will have lockers to keep their materials and personal possessions. A refundable deposit is made for each key given out. Classroom teachers cannot be responsible for lost items on campus.


Opportunities for learning specific living skills and personal independence are provided to students through courses in Daily Living Skills and experience in residential cottages.

Areas of emphasis include the following:

  • Personal grooming and hygiene, including daily bathing, care of teeth, and proper use of cosmetics and personal items.
  • Clothing care, including folding and hanging clothes, orderliness in drawers and wardrobes, selection of appropriate clothing, laundry, and minor clothing repairs.
  • General room care, including making and changing beds, mopping floors, dusting.
  • Foods and kitchen skills, including shopping and food preparation, menu planning, and personal eating skills.
  • Use and care of personal possessions and school property.
  • Earning and spending money for goods.
  • Eating management, weight control, nutrition.
  • Personal management and organization.


Daily Living Skills (PDF format)


The Washington State School for the Blind subscribes to the following statements of orientation and mobility philosophy. It is of utmost importance that students develop a positive self-image and confidence in their ability to function within their environment. One way to achieve this end is the ability to move within one's environment, thereby increasing the number of experiences and concepts available, as well as the ability to control one's own life and immediate environment.

1. Orientation and mobility is an integrated part of the educa­tional curriculum and an integrated part of life. It there­fore must be taught as such and not as an isolated skill.

2. Orientation and mobility training should begin during early childhood and preschool years.

3. The long cane is a primary tool for totally blind and low vision students, which may be supported by other orientation and mobility aids.

More specifically,
1. Every student enrolled at Washington State School for the Blind shall have an orientation and mobility goal on his/her individual education plan (IEP).

    a. Students will be evaluated on an individual basis to determine need based upon parent, student, and staff input.
    b. Appropriate mobility aids shall be offered/prescribed for each student. No student shall be denied the opportuni­ty to use any mobility tool.

2. Students shall be encouraged to use the long cane and/or other mobility devices in all areas. No student shall be denied the right to use a cane or other aid in any area.

3. Students for whom it has been determined by an orientation and mobility instructor, that they should use a cane, should carry a cane at all times, for traveling on and off campus.

4. Canes or other mobility devices shall not be removed from students except in cases of imminent danger (e.g., use as a weapon).


Definition: “Walking Papers” are the permission granted to students who demonstrate proficiency on specific routes leaving from the Washington State School for the Blind. Students must demonstrate for their Orientation and Mobility Specialist safe travel to and from desired destinations. Parents/guardians are part of this process: students are to obtain written permission (kept on file in the office) for each route completed.

1. Age requirements:

Students must be at least 13 years old to earn walking papers from the cottages;
Students under 16 years of age must travel with at least one other student who also has earned his/her walking papers;
Students 16 and over can earn “night travel” papers for travel off campus after dark.

2. Signed permission:

The Walking Papers forms are kept in the Irwin school office (in a binder behind the secretary) for each student, initialed by the current O&M instructor when a new route is learned. A copy is sent to the Cottage of residence for each student.
Each route should have a signed parental permission slip behind the WP form. Instructors are to contact the parent or guardian to discuss new routes learned and to answer any questions parents might have regarding their child’s travel off campus.

3. Annual Renewal:

Each fall at registration, staff will have the renewal form for parents and guardians, listing previously learned routes and the date(s) earned. Parents will need to sign and return this form to registration staff which will be kept on file in the school office. A copy will go to the students’ cottages.
O&M specialists will evaluate students on their previously acquired walking papers at the beginning of each school year to insure safe travel after summer break. RLC’s will be informed by O&M instructors when a student is “cleared” to use her/his walking papers again each September.

Note: Waterworks Park is off limits for “Walking Papers” due to documented drug usage in the area and poor atmosphere.