One of the sure signs that summer fun is drawing to a close are the huge areas of Target, Walmart and Kmart displaying bins of discounted school supplies.
Parents generally seem to hate school supply shopping, and especially react to the long lists from school. I’ve never heard a parent say, “Wow, we really don’t have to buy too much!” I remember being kind of shocked by the list I received when my firstborn started kindergarten.
We have made school supply shopping into a fun evening, preceded by shopping for a new first-day hair bow or a needed pair of tennis shoes and topped off with ice cream. In fact, though I can’t help wiping a few tears thinking about our summer days winding up, I like the time I spend one-on-one with each of my kids getting their gear ready.
I took my kids shopping at Target. Minus a few items, like packages of baby wipes that we buy in bulk at Costco, we spent a total of approximately $70. Another family I know with two kids a couple of years older than mine spent about $115 total.
Neither of these totals includes items like lunchboxes or book bags, because we had already purchased those in prior years.
When comments by Rich Franz got the Mehlville community talking about school supplies and who should foot the bill when supplies come up short, I wondered what happens when a child doesn’t have what they need. The financial impact could be intimidating.
I talked with a teacher at Bierbaum Elementary, who said that every year she has two or three students who don’t bring school supplies. I was surprised the number wasn’t higher, but even if the teacher only takes up the slack to provide the very basics for a few kids, they could easily spend $100 the first week of school. And those are just the supplies we know about.
Thankfully, Faith Lutheran Church on Telegraph Road has stepped up to help meet the needs of students at Bierbaum, providing school supplies that come up short. In addition, Bierbaum has a school supply “bank” in the office where a few extra donated supplies are stored, giving teachers a place to check first before heading to the store to buy supplies.
A district principal I spoke with said that parents often volunteer to help close the gap. They donate gift cards or cash to the classroom so that supplies are available and teachers are not left footing the bill.
Another friend told me that she calls the classroom teacher during the first week of school to ask if there is anything that the classroom is lacking in basic supplies. Some families are not able to do this, of course, but I love it when I hear that someone is going the extra mile to provide solutions.
Even if the district had enough money to purchase every pencil necessary and provide a paint smock for every kindergartener, I’m confident it would still benefit parents to provide some school supplies. When we directly invest our money in our kids’ education, rather than just seeing it filter down from the taxes paid, we also invest our personal interest into the classroom.
Getting involved at your child’s school and in the classroom is a great way to find out what’s really needed and why. There are some hard-working PTO groups in the district who put in hour after hour to provide additional funds. Not everyone can do this either, but even a quick email to your child’s teacher to introduce yourself is a start.
My son made me chuckle when he wanted to get all red school folders, notebooks and binders because that’s his favorite color. I cried in my ice cream after I took my new kindergartener shopping because I thought sending the second kid to school would get easier. Both nights of school shopping were pretty fun, though.
Our kids’ school supplies are stacked and ready to make their academic debut in just a matter of days. Like a lot of Mehlville families, we had to watch spending in other areas to buy the supplies.
Hearing about the efforts others are making to improve the availability of school supplies, though, is inspiring me to think about heading back to Target so we can toss in a few more boxes of crayons… but only if we can top it off with ice cream.
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