The Ottumwa Courier


April 16, 2014

Carrying bookbags a balancing act

OTTUMWA — Permission slips. Notes from teachers. School activity announcements, birthday invitations, report cards and homework to sign. Kids bring home a lot of stuff. But is it done fairly?

The school board this week was asked by ranking members of the popular Ottumwa Community Children's Playhouse to review school policy on allowing flyers to go home with students.

Members of OCCP put on plays, theater camps and dance activities to keep children engaged. The dances are a social way to entertain kids and are not a fundraiser for the organization, said OCCP's Becky Ingle.

In fact, said Marc Lay, though there is a small admission charge at the dances, the group usually ends up spending its own money to host. And that's fine with them, because it's not done as a fundraiser. But they want more kids to know about the functions and be able to attend.

When they were allowed to send flyers home before the prohibition on fundraisers started years ago, they had perhaps 200 children come to the dances. Now that they've been prohibited from distributing flyers "in backpacks," that number has dropped to just more than 100.

There's a perception of unfairness, cautioned the players, as other nonprofit groups are able to send home announcements: YMCA, Tenco, Izaac Walton. Those are all wonderful groups, said Lay, who has several of his own children in the district. Those organizations are good for kids — but so is the playhouse.

During board member topics, David Weilbrenner said he wanted to know more about how such decisions are made, adding there should be fairness. Is there a policy?

Superintendent Davis Eidahl said the old curriculum director had been responsible for deciding what materials from the outside could be distributed by the schools. There had to be a balance: Kids bring home so much, the higher priority notices could start getting lost in the background noise of all those other flyers. But the district does want children to know about area activities, too.

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