Opinion

Filling that backpack is a bit pricey these days | Adele Ferguson

Like It Is

Got your letters yet from the schools your kids will be attending this fall on what they should bring with them on the first day?

Well, be sitting down when you open it and check if your credit card is maxed out yet.

I’m long past having any kids in school but I contribute to an organization that assists families down on their luck and I almost had second thoughts on receiving its latest letter.

The sentence that got me was, “A gift of $75 will buy a backpack full of supplies (paper, pens, pencils, 3-ring binder, ruler) for one student or $150 will provide materials and a scientific calculator for an older student.”

$75 seemed like a heckuva lot to pay for one backpack plus paper, pens, pencils, 3-ring binder and a ruler. Most nonprofit organizations, like the schools, can save a lot of money by buying in bulk or in a package deal with some other school or nonprofit.

So I called the letter writer and asked her about it.

Actually, said Kathleen Hackney of Kitsap Community Resources, KCR does get a good discount on its purchases and that list of stuff for the backpack only “highlighted” what was needed. KCR only provides for the kids who qualify as from low-income families, but here, for example, is the list of what one school, Clear Creek Elementary, considers necessary for all its fifth-graders to have at opening bell.

And remember, this is for parents to provide. Parents don’t have any discount deals.

“A backpack, 4 dozen pencils, package colored pencils, 3 red ballpoint pens, Crayolas, felt tip markers, 2 highlighters, 1 large pink eraser, 1 watercolor paint box, 1 pair blunt end scissors, 2 jumbo glue sticks, 1 pencil case, 1 pencil sharpener, 1 ruler, 1 calculator, 3 pocket folders, 3 composition notebooks, 2 spiral notebooks, 3 reams of white copy paper, 3 packages wide rule notebook paper, 3 three-ring binders, 3 tab dividers, 1 dictionary-thesaurus, 1 protractor, 1 flash drive, 1 box Band-Aids, 1 box Kleenex, 1 gallon of water in bottles, 1 jar peanut butter, $3 emergency preparation fee.”

The three reams of paper are really for use of the teachers, Mrs. Hackney said.

Teachers are always complaining that they aren’t given enough money for the supplies they need in the classroom so it’s gotten to where students are being tapped to help out.

Cheryl Portier of the Central Kitsap School District confirmed why the paper is in there.

The boxes of Kleenex and Band-Aids and the water and peanut butter go into a central emergency supply section each school has for use when needed. Not all the kids are asked to bring peanut butter, some are on the jelly list.

What’s a flash drive? “It’s a portable chip that you plug into your computer to store what’s in there,” Mrs. Portier said. Oh. Remember, I’m not the least bit mechanical.

Backpacks, by the way, in the Sunday newspaper ads, seemed mighty high at $39.99 to $69.99 at even the cheapest stores but every kid is supposed to have a brand new one each fall, not a leftover used one.

It must be tough, I said, on parents with more than one kid to buy all this stuff for.

It is, she said, especially when they get to junior high and need an $85 calculator. “It can be very difficult.”

Schools are grateful for the kindness of individuals and organizations that donate for school supplies, she said.

I note that at Staples, where pencils are eight for a penny, a ream of paper is $5.99.

Three reams is a lot to ask students to contribute.

Schools, i.e., the state, both of which get discounts, also should be supplying the water, the peanut butter, the Kleenex and the Band-Aids.

Ask your legislator why they don’t.

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