Even in a tough economy, by law, schools cannot deny needy students the use of books, participation in field trips or other basic activities that are covered by fees.
Not all necessities for attending school, though, are covered. And several districts have set aside special funds, set up by private donations, to further assist students in a tough economy.
Glenview District 34 has the Debra Gelfand Fund. Resident Barbara Silver spearheaded the establishment of the fund, which is named for a District 34 parent who died of cancer in 1990. The fund has covered such items as food, clothing and shoes.
Meanwhile, taps into The Parent Teacher Club and Education Foundation, run by two parent fundraising organizations. The foundation has provided $10,000 to support children who cannot afford to pay fees to participate in before- or after-school activities.
Even with such help and other programs available to defer or greatly reduce fees, some parents are embarrassed to admit that they and their children need help.
“The number of student participants in our school band has decreased this year due to parents having to pay a fee, and they do not want to accept a fee scholarship,” said Dr. Alexandra Nicholson, superintendent of District 31.
The cash-strapped district recently began charging students to participate in after school sports, among other extracurricular activities.
In Northbrook , an annual run/walk supports the Homer O. Harvey Scholarship fund, which has provided college scholarships to alumni of the district since 1989.
The Glenbrook Foundation, in District 225, also provides college scholarships to and students and helps support other school programs. Those include a vegetable garden at Glenbrook South, which donates its crop to the .
Echoing the stress schools are seeing in their students, pantry patronage has mushroomed.
In August, there were 630 families registered for the Northfield Township Food Pantry. That number jumped to 652 in September. In better times, a 1-2 family-per-month increase was the norm.
Pantry use was at peak holiday levels two to three months in advance. The Northfield family count in December 2010 was 652, exactly today's number. Some 700 families are expected to be registered by this holiday season.
In Sept. 2009, even after nearly two years of recession, the pantry family count was just 487.