Local News

Students return to cash-strapped schools

Posted August 24, 2009 11:12 p.m. EDT
Updated August 25, 2009 7:40 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.