MINOT — All across the state, schools are having to make due with less.
In Minot, the school year wasn't two months old when, with a hiring freeze in effect, one of the school custodians quit to go into business for himself.
"Mrs. Pitts came to our class and asked if we would help out," eighth-grader Faith Ide said. "Everyone wanted to; there were plenty of volunteers."
Ide, with one latex glove already on, announced that Thursday was her day to help gather wastebaskets throughout the school. Minutes later, she and Everett Bertrand were off to the first- and second-grade wing, while out of sight down the school's meandering corridors, Taylor Freeman and Dominique Belanger began with the middle school rooms.
In less than 15 minutes, all 34 of the school's wastebaskets had been emptied, new liners installed and the trash trucked off to a dumpster outside the gymnasium.
"I am extremely proud of how everybody is stepping up for our school, taking hold of the concept of how we are all in this together," Principal Margaret Pitts said.
Pitts figures the school is saving some real money — the equivalent of full-time benefits for one custodian plus 15 hours pay per week — and the students are gaining unquantifiable lessons in social responsibility.
Bertrand, admitting that he "didn't mind leaving class five minutes early one day a week," noted that the eighth-graders were given a great deal of leeway in figuring out routes and arranging their own substitutes as necessary.
"The first- and second-graders really get into this," Bertrand said. "They come to the doors with their baskets, all excited."
Jennifer Gagnon, one of two eighth-grade homeroom teachers, noted that helping with cleanup extends beyond emptying baskets. Routinely, in all except the kindergarten room, students have accepted responsibility for running manual carpet sweepers over the portion of their rooms that have rugs.
"The students are a lot more willing to help out than I ever expected," Gagnon said.
Kimberly Bronk, Ide's and Bertrand's homeroom teacher with 10 years at the Minot school, figured the students reflect the larger Minot community.
"Going home in a recent storm, I got stuck in a snowbank on Shaw Hill Road," Bronk said. "Long story short, I came away saying, 'What a wonderful community I work in — caring people, caring parents, caring children, always willing to give a hand.'"