/ Modified jan 25, 2011 3:12 p.m.

Volunteers Vital to Struggling Schools

School districts are more dependent on volunteers during the tough economy

tusd school volunteers 617x347 Tucson Unified School District classroom.

The state's budget crisis had led to cutbacks for many agencies and departments, including education, so school districts are grateful for the number of volunteers who contribute in a myriad of ways. The Tucson Unified School District, the second-largest in the state, is one of them.

That's where you'll find volunteers like Amy Marble, who donates her time to the Borton Primary Magnet School on 22nd Street near Euclid. Marble has taken on multiple responsibilities since she began volunteering a few years ago, including duties in the library, baking pies and cookies, and working on art projects.

“I get to meet my daughter’s friends and I get to hang out and I know the teachers," she says. "I’m a friendly face within this school but there’s lots of other friendly faces and I know this great community of parents that I see all around town."

Katrina Smits is the principal at the school and she says the work of volunteers is priceless.

"We truly could not survive without our volunteers," she says. "I’ve been with TUSD for 28 years and I’ve never seen the budget situations that we’re working with right now as a result of our state budget. So the need for volunteers is more urgent than ever. It’s more dire than ever.”

TUSD officials estimate that about 4,000 people volunteer in the district annually, providing about 187,000 hours of work. It's a huge amount collectively, but it averages out to about one and a half hours per week during the school year.

"Even an hour here and there makes a big difference and there’s always opportunities," says Marble.

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