Utah's beleaguered school system, struggling with growing numbers and inadequate finances, is coping better than might be expected, thanks to parents and other volunteers who help out in the classroom.

Typical of those who are making a difference is Charlotte Parrish, who has a son in Centerville Elementary. As pointed out in a Deseret News article this week, she was upset by lack of funds for a geography skills program, so she volunteered to run it herself.Now, monthly assemblies featuring different countries of the world are a popular event at the school. The program is guided by a 15-member committee of parents and teachers, with the PTA picking up half the cost.

Similar stories could be told in many school districts throughout the state. Granite District, for example, has a cooperative education program in which parents help plan and teach classes, do tutoring, provide enrichment activities, and help conduct field trips.

The program, now in kindergarten through third grade, will be expanded by one grade each year.

State school officials note that most schools have some volunteer activity, but the extent and sophistication vary widely. Volunteers may do tutoring of individuals, work with at-risk students, provide pre-school programs, become pen pals, share skills in the arts, help teachers read and judge essays and other papers, and even - like Charlotte Parrish - run district-wide programs.

Such volunteers can make a significant difference. Besides providing more help for teachers and more individual attention to students, volunteers enrich their own lives.

But the help provided by volunteers meets only a small part of the total need.

If Utah is to have a first-class education system, it will take more than tax money, which is in short supply. It will require more personal involvement at the classroom level by parents, retired persons, and others who want to have a real impact.