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Fees to use desks and breathe the air at school? A Waterbury teacher’s lesson stirs up social media

New Haven

It sent social media into a frenzy — parents in Waterbury reacting to a letter from a teacher outlining fees that would be imposed on families whose children attend public schools. Those fees included: $15 for a child to sit at a desk in a classroom; $1 for them to be able to use pencils or pens; and 50 cents each month for students to be able to breathe the air generated by the school’s climate control system.

“What?!” said June Colgan of Waterbury.

“No parents should be getting charged for no desk, no supplies,” said Migdallia Rodriguez, another parent. “That’s supposed to come free from the schools.”

“I originally thought these people can’t really think that it was true. We can’t charge for air,” said Paula Caldarone, an 8th grade social studies teacher at West Side Middle School in Waterbury. “And then I began to get a little nervous because maybe I stirred up — I don’t know – too much controversy.”

The fees are not real. Ms. Caldarone wrote a letter outlining the fees and gave the letters to her students. They grew angry.

“I’ve had students jump out of their seats and sit on the floor because they weren’t going to pay the desk fee,” said Ms. Caldarone. “And I then said imagine then what the colonists may’ve felt like just before the revolution when they were imposed with taxes.”

Ms. Caldarone’s class is studying The American Revolution. She says she wanted the students to feel what the colonists may’ve felt at the time — feelings that led them to revolt from The King of England and eventually form the United States of America.

On that front, she accomplished her mission. But what followed on Facebook were hundreds of comments from parents disgusted at the fees before they found out they were fake — part of a classroom lesson.

“I was not expecting this to happen,” Ms. Caldarone said.

Ms. Caldarone said she explained to the students that the fees were fake before they took the letters home. She gets high marks from many in the school community. She says she loves her students and she loves teaching.  She’s been at the school for 15 years.

As for June Colgan, she’s glad to find out the fees are fake news and she applauds Ms. Caldarone for a job well done executing her lesson plan.

“I think that’s a very good lesson,” Colgan said.

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