You’ll read this week about efforts by the Glenmont Elementary Parent Teacher Association to upgrade that school’s playground equipment.
According to Amy Scharf, of the PTA’s Playground Committee, that goal is long overdue. Some pieces of equipment are broken, to the point they’re roped off to keep kids out of danger.
It’s similar to the situation at Elsmere Elementary, where the PTA there launched into a fundraising campaign last winter. That group is nearly at its goal as of this writing, having collected roughly $75,000.
The generosity of the Bethlehem Central community is commendable, as is the drive from these groups to make these projects. But the fact Glenmont is following hot on the heels of Elsmere raises some valid concerns about how our communities support schools.
Glenmont waited until this point in part to let Elsmere do its own fundraising for its playground and avoid community fatigue. That’s certainly understandable, because the BC community has also been almost entirely supporting several sports teams for years and chips in for plenty of extracurricular clubs.
These are “wants,” to be sure, but they’re not extravagances by any means. (We would, in fact, argue the intrinsic value of a playground for a child may well exceed that of an iPad.) But these costs are starting to add up, especially when considering parents and teachers (who will be disproportionately solicited to add additional support to the schools) already must supply community items like extra pencils, tissues and the like for their child’s classroom every fall.
To be fair, the district is paying for part of the playgrounds project through a building project bond, but that support was dialed back in light of the PTA fundraising. It certainly seems the developing trend is to let parents and community members pick up the pieces of what’s crumbling at BC. Unintentional or otherwise, these mounting instances set dangerous precedence for the future.
In a community like Bethlehem, which is affluent and engaged, these may seem like quibbling concerns. Indeed, BC students are lucky to have neighbors and parents willing to open up the checkbook and make their time at school better.
We are concerned that this sort of arrangement may become the new normal, however. Members of the Glenmont PTA are right to worry about the community becoming overburdened, and so should officials in the district that are increasingly relying on the power of donations.
This might be an acceptable approach for getting through tough times, but it is hardly a way to live. We encourage the school board to view PTA and community support as a stop gap measure only, and to continue working to increase efficiencies and one day in the future wean itself off of public charity.