Editorial — Maybe public school is free, but it doesn’t come without a cost

A story by high school senior Claire Borecki highlights the struggles of the not wealthy in a wealthy school climate. Are we aware?

For the most part, we tend to rotate in similar atmospheres to ourselves. Maybe we all reach out of our comfort zones sometimes —  at work, at church, at school, and at events.

But still, human nature tends to be a bit self-centric, and we can fall into the habit of thinking everyone shares the same perspective on problems we have and challenges we face.

And Fairfield County, where many of our lives seem the same, reinforces that more than most.

So, as referenced in part one of  this week’s story by Darien High School senior Claire Borecki posted online Wednesday, it can tend to come as a surprise when a whole team decides to buy the $100 jacket — not realizing one member can’t afford it.

• How they live here — the struggle of the not so wealthy students in town

Maybe we just might not be aware.

There are many reasons that people live in a wealthier town yet aren’t wealthy. Maybe they bought their house two or more decades ago when real estate hadn’t yet skyrocketed.

Maybe there was a divorce in the family and either parent didn’t want to move their children’s schools at a delicate time, so they downsized.

Maybe there have been health or substance abuse problems that have tapped into savings.

Or maybe someone lost a job and they are just able to do the bare minimum to stay in town.

Regardless, the lack of spare cash floating around other than the living necessities like rent/mortgage, food and utilities is a very real problem. And even more so for parents of school children.

Yes, public school is free. But a lot of what is associated with it isn’t.

While the latest school book fair, field trip, T-shirt promotion, or pledge competition might not seem like they cost a lot, they add up quickly.

And that doesn’t count the youth sports or music lessons or dance lessons that can cost several hundred dollars out of pocket outside of school. Though independent, our children come home from school and wonder why they aren’t enrolled like their friends.

Giving to those in need outside of town is a worthy cause. But remembering that our own neighbors in Darien, and surrounding towns, our children’s friends and classmates, might not always have what we have.

Maybe it isn’t necessary to have everyone buy the team jacket that costs $100 — maybe everyone can’t afford it and doesn’t want to say so.

Maybe the club trip shouldn’t be to a Broadway show and dinner, but something more affordable like pizza and a movie. Maybe it can be those things, with at least the cognizance that for some, it will be a hardship, if not impossible.

There are many who will say, if you can’t afford the lifestyle, you should move somewhere you might fit in better. But there are many of us who have and will sacrifice to live in towns we’ve lived in, had our children in, and wish to raise them in. We have paid our taxes into the school system like everyone else, and wish for our children to benefit from that district.

Maybe it’s a good lesson to realize most of us are fortunate and be aware that for every blessing we have, another does not.

Maybe Claire’s story will make people think.

We hope so.

Got ideas to help? Email [email protected]

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