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For some students, school is back- breaking work

By By Lynette Wilson / staff writer
September 28, 2002
Tenth-grader Ashley Giles carries four books, folders, paper, a calculator, pens and pencils back-and-forth to school every day a 26-pound load.
Once she arrives at school, Giles totes the load around all day from class-to-class because the West Lauderdale campus which includes elementary, middle and high schools has no lockers.
One day, while in a rush, Giles' mother grabbed her daughter's backpack and was shocked to find she could barely lift it. So she asked the Lauderdale County School Board for a solution to lighten the load.
Cindy Giles presented the board with evidence showing a person should not carry more than 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight because it is unhealthy.
Besides her daughter, Cindy's 11-year-old son, Justin, weighs 95 pounds and carries a 20-pound backpack to-and-from school. Justin's backpack weighs more than 20 percent of his 95 pounds.
Cindy said one of the school board members told her that high school students should be mature enough to carry the load.
Lauderdale County School Superintendent David Little said about three or four years ago, right around the time of the Columbine High School shootings, West Lauderdale got a fresh coat of paint.
Because of safety concerns, Little said, "the lockers weren't being used, so we took them out." Little said the board is trying to put lockers in the budget for next year, but that he hates to have to wait that long.
Little said the school district can't afford to pay the entire cost of the lockers.
Cindy Giles suggested a short-term solution: Have teachers plan their lessons ahead of schedule so students can leave their books at home on days when they aren't needed.
Giles said she knows the school district budget is slim. But, she said, it's just not good for the children to carry such heavy bags.