Guest Author - Cynthia Parker
I am sure that most of you already have your kids back in school for at least a week or so, and hasn’t it been fun! NOT! I see the commercials on television for Staples and other office supply stores where the parents are simply thrilled to be stocking up on school supplies to send their little darlings back to school. The parents are all smiles and the kids are dragging their feet looking severely depressed. I don’t know about you, but that is certainly not the way it is for me. Usually my kid is a lot happier than I am about returning to school!
With the return to school comes a plethora of headaches! There are school fees, bus schedules, books, clubs, sports, band/orchestra, teachers, lunch, and of course, friends – all which have their own set of issues. I have to be honest with all of you – I don’t have any sound answers to any of the problems with our public education system. I have ideas; I have hopes; and I have fears – but no rock-solid solutions. However, I can let you know that you are not alone. Everywhere I turn, I am hearing complaints about the efforts towards getting children back in school successfully.
When my daughter and I arrived at registration this year, we waited in line for about 30 minutes before we found out that we would have to provide proof of residency. In our school district, this is not something that is done every year. Certain grades are selected to provide proof of residency and while they swear that they tell us in advance, I didn’t have a clue until we reached the posterboard sign that stated that 9th and 11th graders would have to provide proof of residency. They don’t want your driver’s license or your voter registration, either; they want a utility bill or your mortgage contract or rental agreement. They will take a medical bill or a property tax bill, but only if you can’t provide another form. Needless to say, we had none of the above on our persons. So, we left and resolved to return on the make-up registration day. Apparently this happened to quite a few students and their parents…
Because on the make-up day, the line for those attempting to register for school stretched out the cafeteria, down the breezeway, and through the main building, ending in front of the attendance office! Late registration began at 4:00 pm and supposedly ended at 7:00 pm. We arrived at 4:15 pm and were still standing in line, waiting for textbooks, at 7:30 pm! My daughter has scoliosis and has a “prescription” from her doctor for two sets of books – one of the classroom and one for home – so that she doesn’t have to carry a 45-pound book bag around all day. The textbook room attendant wanted to argue that she didn’t need two sets of textbooks, as if he were her physician! After clarifying that situation, I was more than ready to get out of that un-air-conditioned, over-crowded hallway!
Of course, I have heard the usual, standard “complaints” over the past few days – “None of my friends are in my class.” (Which isn’t true since she talks about her friends and when I ask where she saw them, the answer is “chemistry class/calculus/orchestra.”); “I don’t like my History teacher.” (Followed by, “Mr. X has the best ideas for note-taking.”); and “They never have anything good for lunch.” (Before admitting that chicken nuggets and French fries are her favorite!). But the real “test” of all of our strengths this year (and there have only been five school days so far this year!) has been the bus.
First let me say that I adore her bus driver, as does she. He is definitely NOT the problem here. The problem is that the routes have been changed and my daughter now rides an over-crowded bus where students sit three to a seat and there is no room for book bags, band instruments, sports paraphernalia, etc. (I realize that as I write this, there will be at least a few of you that say, “At least they don’t have to stand!” I sympathize and I admit that I have fewer issues than you.) What really stuck in my craw was when I called the School Transportation office to ask for the maximum capacity for the bus and was told, “We guarantee transportation to school for our students, not their equipment.” When I asked them to identify “equipment”, I was told, “Book bags, instruments, sports equipment, etc.” I was puzzled; don’t they need their books bags, instruments, etc. in order to attend class? I was informed that if there was no room on the bus for such items, the parents would have to deliver them to the school. I was scratching my head on this one – I mean, if I can take my child’s books, instruments, etc. to school, then can’t I transport my child, too? “That’s an idea!” I was politely told. I used to believe that if a child lived outside of a mile from school, there was some type of education policy, regulation, state law, something that stated that transportation had to be provided. I believe that I was delusional! And I am not the only parent that has faced this issue so far this year – I have talked to a number of band, orchestra, sports parents who are facing the same challenges. If our work schedules allowed us to transport our children to school, we would already be doing it! Needless to say, this will be an on-going challenge!
Whatever your back to school challenge – and I know that you all have at least one! – know that you are not alone! Back to school is never as easy as they make it look on television and, quite frankly, it may even be harder on parents than it is on students (though our children would never believe that!). Just hang in there, remember to breathe, and know that nothing we endure is permanent – not even the public school system.