The beginning of a new school year is usually a time of optimism. However, it is hard to pretend the loss of $40 million doesn’t make a difference. That is the amount our local schools have been cut by our legislators and governor over the past two years.
The increase in class sizes, the lack of assistance for struggling students, the reduction in art, music and athletic programs and the discouragement of young teachers who have been laid off is very harmful. In the face of this disgraceful lack of investment in our state’s future that falls particularly hard on children in poverty, we are fortunate to have some local heroes who are stepping up to help our students as the new school year begins.
• Operation School Bell and Sue’s Stars. Since 1996, the Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County has provided clothes for students from kindergarten through eighth grade. In addition to new clothing and a backpack, children also receive an age-appropriate book of their choosing. Last year, more than 1,300 local children received new clothes to start the school year and there will be a similar number for this year. The positive impact on children is a great first step in building self-esteem for a successful school year.
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• Stuff the Bus. United Way of San Luis Obispo County, Office Max and KSBY-TV have organized a partnership to “stuff the bus” with school supplies for students in need. Yellow school buses were parked at three Office Max locations in the county for a week, and shoppers were asked to buy selected school supplies (pencils, notebooks, crayons, etc.) and then put them on the bus. The buses then delivered the supplies to schools for students throughout the county.
• Impact Concussion Testing and Training. Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and San Luis Sports Therapy are again offering no-cost testing for high school athletes and training for county coaches to prevent life-threatening injuries to student athletes. Students in contact sports (football, basketball and soccer) are provided a free baseline exam and in the event they suffer a head injury, are retested and not allowed to play until the test reveals they are eligible to return by the team trainer or physician. Training is also being offered at no cost for coaches and trainers to recognize the symptoms of head injury, diabetes, cardiac arrest, asthma and heat illness. The safety benefit to students is obvious, and the price is right.
• Book Program. Heritage Oaks Bank has designed the Banking On Our Kids (BOOK) program that will use the bank’s debit card transactions. The bank will donate a small fee to our schools for each signature-based card transaction. The donations are then distributed to each local school district on a per student basis for use as determined by the district.
These four diverse local efforts all help our students and schools in a time of great need and is something truly to be positive about. Thank you.
Julian Crocker is county superintendent of schools