Books on wheels
At Pinewood Elementary School in North Lauderdale, Fla., some students are wheeling their books around school rather than carrying them on their backs.
The new trend of backpacks on wheels caught on last fall, said Marie Goodrum, the principal of the 1,153-student school. She said about 50 of her students wheel their class materials around in the same way that grown-ups wheel luggage around in an airport. Local stores market the backpacks on wheels especially for children.
Ms. Goodrum has put a stop to some student trends in the past. For example, she decided it was inappropriate for girls to wear short tops that showed their navels, and she wouldn't let girls wear clogs to school because she said they might slip and fall.
But Ms. Goodrum views the trend of backpacks on wheels as positive.
"It's saving the backs of our boys and girls," she said. "The old backpacks--they're so heavy," she lamented.
Cynthia Foster Haynes rises before dawn to take her son, Robert Foster, 13, to school for almost two hours of pushups and wind sprints before school begins at 8 a.m.
"I don't like it," Ms. Haynes said of the regimen. "Getting up at four in the morning to get him to school is not on my 'A' list."
But hundreds of parents have been clamoring to get their children into the in-school "boot camp" program in Birmingham, Ala., school officials say.
Carol W. Hayes Middle School, for grades 6-8, is testing the pilot program to see if a jolt of military-style discipline and personal attention will help wayward youngsters avoid serious trouble and suspension, without taking them away from their classes. Students are recommended for the program by administrators and the local court.
After the morning regimen, the 25 students in the program join the school's 675 other students for a regular day of classes. Students stay after school for two hours of tutoring and one hour of "drill and ceremony," according to the program's director, Alvin Leavell.
An in-school program is different from other youth boot camps because it keeps youngsters in school and families together, said Mr. Leavell, a retired career soldier.
That consoles Ms. Haynes, who said that after two weeks into the six-week program, she sees positive changes in her son's habits, which she hopes will last.
--MARY ANN ZEHR & ANDREW TROTTER