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School for the Handicapped Closing Doors

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LAWTON Okla_ A school that's been a part of Lawton history for the last 50 years could soon shut its doors for good.

The Greiner School for the Handicapped is closed for the summer, but the school's director said money, or the lack of it, will prevent the school from opening this coming school year.

The school has always depended on private donations or charitable organizations to keep it going. The United Way helped fund it at one time, but they withdrew that several years ago. Since then, Director Schlunda Leslie said more of its supporters have pulled back, while others have declined to step up.

Even worse, she said the school's air conditioning units have recently given out. That's another expense they just can't afford.

For nearly a century, the Greiner School for the Handicapped was more than just a place where students went to learn.

"This is their home, Greiner School is their home," Leslie said.

She said for now, those students are without their school or what they call home, but she and her staff haven't had the heart to tell them just yet.

"We really haven't reached out to them yet," Leslie said. "Our students don't take change well. They have enough stress on them already, so I know that some will see this newscast. So I've spoken to the officer manager and told her to send out letters letting them know we will not be having school this year."

Leslie said money has been so tight after funding was cut, that she voluntarily gave up her own paycheck for the past three months just to make sure she could hang on to current staff. She said overhead costs are a constant, but that compounded with repair needs to the ceiling, flooring and air conditioning, they were left with no choice but to put the school's building up for sale.

She said even more disappointing than closing their doors is knowing when they asked for help, they didn't get it.

"I do want to make it known that we have asked for monetary donations from key players that we do know have the funding, but they're turning us down," Leslie said.

She said while the school's thrift store does help generate money, the money they bring in is no match for the help they once received.

"I know we had a horrible, horrible incident that happened with tornado victims in Moore, and it was very quick for some organizations around her to get up $20,000, $30,000, $40,000, $50,000, they came together. Why can't they do the same for our students?"

While she said the doors are closing for this next school year, she fears without immediate help, the school could be closed for good.

"We need the help last week, last month," Leslie said.

In order for the school to open its doors for the upcoming school year, Leslie said it would take a miracle or a substantial donation. If they keep their doors open, she said they'll use the sale of their building to help pay for a new location. She said in its current state, the cost to complete their current list of repairs isn't practical.

The school is hoping to keep their thrift store open and continues to search for financial backing. If you would like to make a donation, you can visit their thrift shop or head to their website at www.GreinerSchool.org

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