Chicago parents, students get back-to-school help

August 28, 2010 4:52:32 PM PDT
High costs sometimes accompany students' return to school at the end of the summer. The process can involve paying for books, supplies, physical exams and fees for sports and extracurricular activities.So, in tough economic times, any free help is greatly appreciated. Parents and students across the Chicago area were receiving that help Saturday at several back-to-school events.

The push also was on Saturday to get students to show up for that all important for the first day of school on September 7.

"When kids miss school, they fall behind. So we're hoping today to get all the families around Chicago excited about being back in school," Chicago Public Schools CEO Ron Huberman said.

But that's tough, especially in difficult economic times, which is why Mayor Daley teamed up with the Chicago Public Schools to host several back to school festivals around the city, including one in the Chicago's Logan Square neighborhood.

"No excuses. Everybody's going back to school. So we don't lose one dollar in state or federal money. We don't lose any money, that child in school gets everything they need," Daley said.

Which is getting more difficult to do in these tough economic times. That's why Saturday's festival not only food and entertainment, but free immunizations and dental check-ups for students.

"For some of the kids, this is the only exam they may get," said Dr. Don Saltzman, a dentist.

Tarmara Felton, a 35-year-old mother of 10, says it's a God-send.

"It's very helpful because I'm on a low-budget, a single parent dealing with all these kids. It was really a blessing," she said.

Elsewhere, Heitor Garcia was one of many seeking free music lessons. Each year, the People's Music School offers 54 students the opportunity. Officials say the demand has never been greater.

"Music lessons are unattainable for my family, paid music lessons. They're getting it here for free," said parent Roxanne Rilo.

At the back-to-school picnic in Union Park, the Jesse White Tumblers entertained the crowd. There were also pony rides for the kids before organizers handed out more than 2,000 bags of school supplies.

"The seniors come and they bring their grandkids because a lot of seniors are raising their grandkids," said Ald. Walter Burnett of the 27th Ward.

With most schools set to open their doors in slightly more than one week, most say they're ready.

"We're ready for school. We're ready to go to school!" a group of kids told ABC7.

The first day for most of Chicago Public Schools' approximately 409,000 students that attend the system's almost 700 schools begins Tuesday, September 7.

Year-round schools started at the beginning of August.


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