Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 24, 2013

Helping families handle back-to-school costs


Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Store aisles are already crowded with parents and children shopping for back-to-school needs. We trust that teachers have been judicious about their requests in empathy with family finances.

When the kids are barely past the halfway mark of their summer vacations, the notebooks, pens, writing paper and the like start appearing on store shelves.

It used to be, many years ago, that all these items were doled out to students on the first day of school. Many Baby Boomers can recall the smell of composition books, the nervous excitement of lifting the classroom desktops to store their pencil holders.

But as schools struggled to reduce costs, more and more of the supplies needed for students have to be provided by their families. Lists are sent home specifying how many binders, notebooks and pens are needed. Shopping also often includes book covers, Kleenex, markers, erasers, calculators, rulers and more. It can get pricey, especially for those with multiple children in school.

And that is not even factoring in the fact that most families do at least a little back-to-school clothes shopping. The marketing for that begins in mid-summer, as well.

We applaud the schools that have begun to recycle supplies in June as classes wrap up. A number of schools provide bins where students can drop off items they haven’t used. Every school should make this a spring ritual, as it not only provides supplies to those who can’t afford them but also keeps perfectly usable items from winding up in the landfill.

Another worthy effort in our area is the supply drives held by community organizations and some stores. They set up drop-off sites where people can donate new backpacks and school supplies. With all the sales taking place this time of year, it’s easy to stock up at bargain prices, so even modest generosity can go a long way. We encourage more schools and agencies to establish supply drop-off sites.

Another consideration as supply lists are compiled is the strain on young backs as students haul around the thick binders, notebooks and textbooks. The less they have to carry, the easier it will be on their growing bodies.

As teachers devise their lists, we feel confident that they are thinking hard about what their students truly will need for supplies. As schools move more toward the use of computers, Smart Boards and digital devices, we hope the reliance on so many family-provided items can ease up.

With summer vacation drawing to a close, people in our area are getting school supplies together. For some, it will be a serious strain on family finances, and we hope they are able to find help available in their communities.

Press-Republican, Plattsburgh, N.Y.