High school students in Perham were welcomed back to school by eager teachers, rigorous coursework, and a few surprises.
Pleasant surprises came in the form of new carpeting in senior hallway paid for by deferred maintenance funds. The old carpet had not just heavy wear areas but holes.
Other surprises included flooring in the cafeteria/commons paid for by calendar sales and deferred maintenance dollars, a few technology upgrades paid for by a technology grant written by an administrator, and a repaired parking lot paid for by deferred maintenance dollars. The parking lot project was put off several years. However, maintenance was needed to avoid a very expensive full replacement. Thus, the repairs were over due and the district got a great deal on asphalt costs due to the city's First Avenue street project. Deferred maintenance money is used for repair projects that are long-term in nature-such as roofs, air handling units, parking lots, etc.
The less than pleasant surprises came in the form of the majority of classes with over 30 to 44 students, lack of textbooks, not enough computers, fewer teachers, and rain buckets lining the hallways catching water. The loss of teachers and resources are results of failed levies and continued decreases in State funding for education. PHS Senior Jade West commented, "This year, it feels like there are more students and less options." High school math instructor Kyle Knutson stated, "Math students cannot take a math book home because there are not enough books for each student.
Individual assistance from teachers is limited due to the high numbers of students in classes." Spanish educator Amy Haire reflected, "Level 1 Spanish students cannot take a textbook home because we are short 26 books."
Support services have also been hit. A few of the many examples includes a reduction in library resources and access to computers during the school day causing more students to turn to the library after hours for computer time, Yet, the library closes immediately after school, turning students away due to lack of staffing. Another example includes a reduction in college and personal counseling services for students, as the counselor is out of the office teaching a portion of each day.
Loss of funding has also been reflected in extra-curricular activities. Many junior high programs have been cut, which prevents a strong feeder program into the senior high programs. Also, instead of cutting Student Council, Students Against Destructive Decisions, National Honor Society, and Knowledge Bowl teachers have volunteered hundreds of hours to keep these opportunities for students. Close-Up, an educational student trip to Washington D.C., Mock Trial, and the New York City Theater and Media trip have all been lost, because of a loss of funding and failed levies.
Students and staff continue to work hard in the face of lack of resources. As class sizes are projected to increase, and as resources continue to decrease, students may have increasing difficulty competing, not just globally, but also with other students from the United States and Minnesota.
Dr. Sandra Wieser-Matthews, Perham