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Students return to cash-strapped schools

Posted August 24, 2009
Updated August 25, 2009

— Summer vacation is over for traditional-calendar students in Wake County, who head back to class Tuesday. The new school year means teachers must learn to work with less after the Board of Education approved more than $35 million in budget cuts due to the state budget crisis.

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"It's stressful because it is the beginning of the year and we are kind of short staffed on teaching assistants this year, so the teachers are having to do a little bit more,” said fourth-grade teacher Hilary Green who works at Dillard Drive Elementary School.

Students at Dillard Drive Elementary School start the first day Students return to budget crunched schools

The school system has cut more than 300 teaching assistant positions from its spending plan. Since Raleigh's Dillard Drive Elementary School lost four teaching assistants, some teachers are not able to do all that they used to.

"I think you have to prioritize and instead of putting their names on something, (instead) making sure that they are getting the education that they need,” Green said.

Budget cuts will also impact at-risk students. Money for counseling and intervention was slashed by nearly $3 million.

"Obviously it concerns us that we are not able to provide the same level of support, but I think what we will have to do is provide support differently,” said Marvin Connelly Jr., Wake County schools assistant superintendent.

Nearly $5 million was cut from the textbook budget, which means there was no funding to buy textbooks, such as workbooks, that can't be reused.

But despite the lack of resources, Green said she is looking forward to the new school year.

"It's so full-filling to know that the students are able to get that far from the beginning of the year to the end of the year,” Green said of teaching.

The budget plan also slashed $2 million from the school system's transportation budget.

Because the school system did not add any new bus routes to accommodate for three new schools, that could mean longer commutes for some students.

The district implemented a hiring freeze and tried to curb spending last fall in preparation for budget cuts.

Last spring, officials told nearly 1,500 employees whose contracts expired at the end of June not to count on having a job for the 2009-10 school year.

The school board recently decided to rehire 911 of those employees – including teachers, assistants and social workers.

State lawmakers cut education statewide by almost 10 percent, but they gave individual districts the flexibility to balance their budgets as needed.

Gov. Bev Perdue kicked off the official first day of school by riding the school bus with Conn Magnet Elementary School students on Tuesday.

Perdue met students at the bus stop on the corner of Mordecai and Sycamore Streets and accompanied them on their bus ride to the school located at 1220 Brookside Drive.

The governor took a brief tour of the school and welcomed students during their closed circuit television morning announcements.

School bus safety tips

In light of the first day of school, the North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin offers these tips for parents who are putting their children on school buses:

  •  Teach children to wait until the school bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s safe to board.
  •  Show children they should never walk behind or close to the side of the bus.
  •  Teach children to never run across the road to catch a school bus.
  • Pay extra attention and never speed when driving in a school zone and around school buses and pedestrians.

An estimated 5,000 children are injured each year in school bus related accidents, according to the state Department of Insurance. Half of all school-age pedestrians killed in bus-related crashes are between 5 and 7 years old.

Last week, Ashley Ramos-Hernandez, 6, was hit and killed by a Jeep after getting off of her school bus in Raleigh.

The Jeep driver, Geraldine Baron Deitz, 83, of Raleigh, faces charges of misdemeanor death by vehicle and passing a stopped school bus.

Playground, sports can lead to injuries

Injuries on the playground are also a common concert. Parents are encouraged to:

  • Remove hood and neck drawstrings from all children’s outerwear to avoid strangulation hazards on playgrounds.
  • Check playgrounds where your children play. Look for age-appropriate equipment and hazards such as rusted or broken equipment and dangerous surfaces. Report any hazards to the school or municipality.
  • Make sure children remove bike helmets before using any playground equipment.

Sports injuries can be serious so parents should consider the following safety precautions:

  • Before beginning a sport, all children should receive a general health exam and an orthopedic exam.
  • Make sure your children always wear appropriate safety gear and equipment that fits properly. Protective gear is sport-specific and may include mouth guards, shin pads, helmets, elbow pads, knee pads, safety goggles, etc.
  • Teach children to warm up and stretch before playing.
  • Dehydration in young athletes is a serious concern. Make sure your kids drink adequate liquids prior to, during and following athletic activities. Know the symptoms of dehydration: thirst, weakness, headaches, dark-colored urine or a slight decrease in body weight.
  • Prepare for an emergency by providing your child’s coach with important information: parents’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and any medical conditions or allergies affecting the athlete.

This story is closed for comments.

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  • colliedave Aug 25, 2009

    For those who have been indoctrinated to believe that throwing money at a problem produces a world-class school system. I ask you to look at the DC system that has the one of the higher per pupil spending but has one of the lowest performance rates in the country. Even Barry sends his kids to private school yet refuses to give poor parents vouchers so they can get their children out of the rat's nest that is the DC system. I have had my full of the minions who whine "It's for the chillen."

    NO, it is not for the children. It is for the pols who will do what it takes to maintain the power at the expense of the children, And the libe who fly on emotion/feelings over fact/reason are to blind to see they have duped.

  • teacher56 Aug 25, 2009

    I have been teaching 25 years and I can attest that most gifts teachers receive are not gift certificates, cash, or fancy items. For every expensive gift I have received, I have received 50 of something totally useless or ridiculous. Like the time a parent came to my classroom with her child and presented me a paper plate filled with what looked like green broken pieces of something. The mother explained it was a Xmas tree made out of merengue but it broke apart when they took it out of the oven. The mother said the child felt funny and didn't want to give it to me. I thought, "The kid has more brains than Mom." I thanked Mom and then dumped it in the trash on my way out the door. This happened more than 15 years ago but I still remember it. If you want to buy us a gift, please give us something akin to what you would give a coworker or a neighbor. Please don't give us junk.

  • MileageWarrior Aug 25, 2009

    NCTeacher, it seems you guys have a bit more etiquette than the teachers i've dealt with, and those that my friends and neighbors have dealt with in several counties. 'gifts' that are useful to the classroom is one thing, and ppl shouldnt gripe, they should understand these items are needed and not provided by the school, so the class will either go without, or the teacher will have to pony up.

    what i and others have issues with are the 5-day long gift lists which include candles, flowers, gift cards to restaurants, etc. that's just not cool.

  • pappybigtuna1 Aug 25, 2009

    cut out bussing - $700 million per year
    do not pay school board member (will not be a political position)- $1 million per year
    get rid of the redundant positions of non-educators - $80 million
    there a savings of $780 million
    buy some of the best teachers in this country with the money

  • NCTeacher Aug 25, 2009

    The "gift list" we sent home this year was for parents to donate disinfectant wipes, handsanitizer, paper towels, kleenex, tennis balls (used or new to go on chair legs) and ziploc bags.

    Our PTO President handles Teacher Appreciation week and they do a nice breakfast one morning, a duty free lunch one day where we actually get to leave campus for lunch and they put together small goody bags filled with sticky notes, chocolates, pens, etc.. They are very generous to do all of that for us and we are very grateful for their support. None of the teachers I work with would ever dream of doing something so tacky as a gift list.

    As far as the workbooks go- if we didn't have the workbooks for kids to do math practice in, do you have any idea how many copies we would have to make? That would be over 120 copies a day just from one math teacher, since we have workbooks for practice and workbooks for taking notes. We are given one box of paper for the entire year.

  • Garnerwolf1 Aug 25, 2009

    NYTONC: many high schools don't have sidewalks around them. Maybe if you're lucky enough to have a new school plopped down in the middle of a high-res district, it might be a nicety, but certainly not a requirement. But hey, get enough folks, make enough noise, and maybe they'll put them in. Make sure you incl your address so folks can send you a Thank You card when their property taxes go up!

  • hurricane04343 Aug 25, 2009

    No money for textbooks?

    My daughter came home today with two brand new textbooks (for the same class). The teacher said one costs $65, and the other costs $85. That's $150 per student. There are 24 students in this class = $3600. This teacher also teaches another level of this course, which also received new textbooks (two new class sets). When my daughter was in this level, the books cost $85. So 48 students at $85 each = $4,080.

    Also, for both levels, there was already an older version of the $85 book. These books were no more than a few years old, and were in great shape. They replaced these books with new ones, for the "updated pictures and information." I didn't know the physics of flight changed that much.

    My daughter also has an Algebra II textbook published in 1992. Despite being one of best copies in the class, the binding was broken and the cover was falling off. She also has a carry a huge Lit. book to and from class every day as they can't afford a class set.

  • radical Aug 25, 2009

    At the end of the video, it says district officials say no problems this morning with transportation? The bus did not show up at this morning. I had to drive the children from our bus stop to the school.

  • i4musicalarts Aug 25, 2009

    "SAT scores dip for high school class of 2009" looks like all Granny and Grandpa's gifts aren't helping accomplish a thing! wake up folks, the wake county system has and is failing us!"

    time4real, this is incorrect. Wake's SAT scores increased. Everyone's entitled to an opinion, but stridently spreading lies and misinformation serves no worthy purpose.

  • tropicalgirl Aug 25, 2009

    I've never heard of gift lists being sent home. My daughter's school discourages teacher gifts. Instead, a teacher appreciation breakfast and a teacher appreciation luncheon are held and parents are invited to donate money to pay for the food or their time to watch the classroom while the teachers get together. I have had classroom duty a couple times and really enjoyed it and felt the teachers really appreciated that time to relax with their colleagues. When I go have lunch with my daughter, I see the teachers eating with their students and it's anything but relaxing!