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Frequently Asked Questions

MDS is a charter school; what is a charter school?

  • Charter schools are public schools that are part of Minnesota’s public education system. Every charter school is a school district - but has no geographic boundaries.
  • Charter schools are free of charge to Minnesota students and must comply with the Public School Fee Law.
  • Charter schools are organized and operated as a Nonprofit Corporation under Chapter 317A or as a Cooperative under Chapter 308A.
  • All charter schools in the state of Minnesota are staffed by teachers with appropriate Minnesota teaching licensure or credentials. Charter schools have an authorizer which is charged with monitoring and evaluating the fiscal, operational and student performance of the school. The University of St Thomas is Metro Deaf School’s authorizer.
  • Charter schools have a “charter” or “contract” with an authorizer that outlines the purposes of the school and the academic and non-academic outcomes for the students and school. An initial charter is up to three years, and charter renewal contracts may be up to five years based on school performance. Charter schools which do not fulfill the terms of their charter contract may be non-renewed and closed.
  • Charter schools are funded by the State of Minnesota in the same manner that traditional public schools are funded, except for revenues generated by local property tax levies. Charter schools may not levy taxes.
  • Charter schools are governed by a board of directors composed of teachers, parents and community members, who are elected by the parents and guardians of the students and by school staff members.
  • Charter schools and the board of directors must comply with Minnesota’s Open Meeting Law and Data Practices Law.

You can learn more about charter schools at

Who can attend MDS?

The school serves primarily Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard-of-hearing students who are visual or tactile learners. All students attending MDS have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) and fall under the “special education” category.

How many students attend MDS  and where are they from?

The school has approximately 115 students. MDS serves students from age 3 – 21, Preschool (Early Childhood Special Education – ECSE) through 12th grade and students needing to remain on an IEP until 21 years of age. MDS serves thirty-five school districts, including western Wisconsin.

Some high school students may attend MDS part-time, choosing to take some course work offered at their home high school which MDS may not offer. Should this occur, the student’s schedule is worked out between both schools and the home district.

What is bilingual education?

Bilingual education using two languages in all areas of the curriculum. Both languages are equally valued, used, taught, and learnt. At MDS, all students are instructed in American Sign Language (ASL) and English is taught predominantly through print.

Spoken English (speech) occurs during specific times with students but is not part of the classroom curriculum. MDS has two speech language pathologists on staff and three members of the ASL department who teach ASL classes and provide specific ASL support for some students.

Do you serve students with Cochlear Implants?

Yes, the school serves students with cochlear implants. As with all our students, these students use expressive and receptive ASL in the classrooms and with their peers. Those students may also have more speech time included on their IEP based on the IEP team’s decision.

What is your curriculum’s focus?

MDS has a challenging interdisciplinary curriculum that incorporates Minnesota’s Academic Standards. Accommodations and modifications are made to the curriculum based on each student’s IEP. Differentiation can occur to slow the pace of instruction, provide more repetition, or provide acceleration for those who are above grade level. Bilingual education is a core value at MDS and research demonstrated this leads to higher literacy levels.

Does MDS have athletics and extracurricular activities?

MDS offers both athletic and/or extracurricular activities for students in grades 1-12. The school’s sport teams, the Cheetahs, compete in elementary coed soccer and basketball, cross country (HS), girls’ volleyball (JHS and HS), boys and girls basketball (JHS and HS), and track & field. High school sports teams periodically travel out of state for tournaments at other schools for the deaf. Clubs for high school students include Academic Bowl, yearbook staff, drama club. Opportunities to develop leadership skills are also available through Jr. NAD and MDS Student Council.

What makes your school different from other schools?

MDS requires staff to be fluent in two languages and to be licensed by the State of Minnesota in their area of specialty. All teaching staff is trained in bilingual education.

MDS offers an opportunity for students to maintain close family and community ties while attending school with his/her peers who also use American Sign Language (ASL) to communicate.

Students have full access to communication and instruction in ASL with teachers, staff, and peers.

What transportation is provided?

With the special education director's involvement and the IEP team’s agreement to district placement, any student from the Twin Cities metro area will receive transportation services provided by the student's home district. If the student resides within cities of St. Paul or Minneapolis, MDS will provide transportation. If the parent/student is enrolling unilaterally (making the decision alone) and does not reside in St. Paul or Minneapolis, the student/parent must arrange for his/her own transportation to/from school.

What related services are available to students?

Based on each student’s IEP, MDS offers related services in speech, ASL, language, occupational therapy, physical therapy, social work, orientation and mobility, and vision. The school also has a fulltime school psychologist.

Will interpreters be used in this school?

All MDS teachers are fluent in ASL, so interpreters are not used for regular instruction, but they will be provided for IEP meetings, non-signing guest speakers, parent conferences (as desired), field trips, and extracurricular activities as needed.

How is the school funded?

MDS receives funding from the state and federal government the same as any public school district.

How can I volunteer at MDS?

We have many requests for volunteering at the school, during the 2020-2021 school year volunteering opportunities are not available. Guests and volunteers are currently suspended due to safety concerns with COVID-19.

Prospective Students