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Tolt takes a load off of students

CARNATION Students at Tolt Middle School returned to classes

this month with fewer things to weigh them down. As part of the

school's backpack weight reduction plan, the district appropriated about

$75,000 last year to reduce the amount of unnecessary items students carried to

and from school.

The money paid for double booking (the buying of duplicate text

books so that one copy can remain in school and one copy can be left at home)

in the four core areas (math, social studies, science and language arts),

additional shelving/organizers for students to hold their work, and areas in

the band room for instrument storage.

"I feel good that we have a plan in place and that we're going in the

right direction," said Principal Janet Gavigan.

A major part of the plan included educating parents, students and

staff about what items are appropriate to be carried in the backpacks.

Handbooks for the parents and students were distributed at the beginning of the

school year that outlined the district's approach to lighten the heavy bags.

"My staff worked very hard as a team in terms of asking kids to

bring in common supplies and reminding the students that they don't need

to carry half a ream of paper in their binders," Gavigan said. She added

teachers will help students throughout the year comply with the new guidelines.

"Some faculty members see kids with heavy backpacks and they

ask, `What have you got in there?'" she said. "We're not going to punish

the child, but we will continue the education process."

The school board has not given Gavigan any direction on how long

the program of double booking will last. Curriculum Director Carola

Wittmann said on average, major core textbooks are reviewed about every seven

years. The next time Tolt Middle School as well as the other schools in the

district will need to consider a switch will be next year, for its math

books. Gavigan said that only time will tell what the district plans to do about

the future of double booking for Tolt.

"When that time comes up, it would need to be discussed,"

Gavigan said. "We'll be asking what's going

to be happening with the double booking."

"I hope this will be something that we will continue unless we can

come up with another solution," she added.

Tolt parents initially asked the district to reinstall lockers at the

school, but staff members expressed concerns about lockers, including

problems such as tardy students and crowded hallways. Instead, a

four-member locker committee made up of two Tolt staff members and two parents

was formed to study the issue, and which devised the current weight

reduction plan.

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