September 12, 2013 in Washington Voices

Parents, students protest lack of lockers for middle-grade students

By The Spokesman-Review
Colin Mulvany photoBuy this photo

East Farms STEAM Magnet School students attended the East Valley School Board meeting Sept. 10 with their heavy backpacks in tow to advocate for lockers at their school. From left: Marena Stewart, 12, Tizara Belback, 12, Riley Wallwork, 11, and Shontelle Belback, 12.
(Full-size photo)

Coming up

The East Valley School Board’s next meeting will be Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. in the district administration building, 12325 E. Grace Ave. For information, call (509) 924-1830.

Parents in the East Valley School District arrived at the school board meeting carrying backpacks full of books, musical instruments, sports equipment and cold-weather clothing.

Mindy Stewart, a parent with three children at East Farms STEAM Magnet School said she wanted to demonstrate what her children have to carry throughout the day. The district moved to a K-8 model, keeping the students at their neighborhood schools and eliminating the middle schools. Those neighborhood schools don’t have lockers.

“What the heck are kids going to do with all their stuff?” she asked.

The issue of lockers was not on the agenda Tuesday, but parents took the opportunity to speak during the public comments of the meeting.

Stewart’s daughter, Marena Stewart, a seventh-grader, held out her bag after the meeting, which she said held every book she needed for school. She also said she carried two instruments to school, a violin and an electric fiddle she plays in jazz band. She estimated she carries around about 50 to 70 pounds of books and other equipment every day.

Her mother said the issue of lockers at the middle-grade level is not about a rite of passage, it was a physical and chiropractic issue.

Parent Christie Burton-Hart brought an article from USA Today which said in 2001, there were 7,000 emergency room visits from backpack related injuries. She went on to read that 72 percent of these injuries were caused by wearing backpacks improperly.

Burton-Hart said it’s a problem parents have been dealing with long before the issue of K-8, and she has noticed many students with lockers only use them on a limited basis so they can have extra time to socialize between classes.

“Had the bond passed, kids would have lockers,” Burton-Hart said.

Stewart said “the community is blamed for not passing bonds,” but she felt because of budget constraints, the district is “using resources in the worst way possible.”

Parent Jean Ribbeck said her daughter opted out of band this year because she didn’t want to add her flute to the heavy load she was already carrying.

“It’s really frustrating,” Ribbeck said. “Things were not thought out.”

Also during public comments, parents made their displeasure known about the transfer of a teacher from the high school to one of the K-8 schools. School board chairwoman Kerri Lunstroth said they cannot comment on personnel matters.

There are four comments on this story. Click here to view comments >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email