Archive for Thursday, August 9, 2007

Backpacking to school

Teachers develop minimal supply list

August 9, 2007

One by one, 14-year-old Amanda Melrose went down the list as she packed school supplies in a backpack.

When she was done, she put the backpack against the wall. But she wasn't finished -- she had more than 100 left to fill.

Amanda was packing backpacks Monday for De Soto Multi Service Center. Each year, the center raises money and gathers donations to provide school supplies to students in De Soto USD 232 who qualify for free or reduced meals.

This year about 230 children signed up for the free supplies, center director Jodi Hitchcock said. However, she said she was a little worried because last year more than 300 children were on the list.

"It's less than we're used to so I don't know if we are going to have a surprise here or not on the day we distribute," she said.

The center will distribute the supplies Thursday and Friday, but the deadline to sign up for a supply package was July 31.

Amanda said she had been alone most of Monday morning trying to pack the bags and said she was nervous about finishing on time.

This is Amanda's third year helping sort through the supplies and group them by grade level. Although she does get to count her volunteer hours toward her required hours at De Soto High School, Amanda said that was not why she helped out.

"We used to come up here and get supplies, and I thought that I would help out and give back," she said.

The cost of supplies

Families this year are expected to spend about $560 on back-to-school merchandise, according to a recent survey by the National Retail Federation. That spending number includes many other items besides supplies, including clothes and shoes.

To help alleviate the burden on parents, the De Soto school district this year created a districtwide condensed supply list for elementary school students. District community relations director Alvie Cater said the list was created in response to parents' requests for a minimum list that was more affordable.

"I felt as a parent that it would be nice to have a standardized list -- a minimum set so that parents wouldn't be overwhelmed," he said.

Cater brought the issue to the attention of the district's principals, who agreed a districtwide list was a good idea.

The districtwide list began with submissions from elementary teachers in each grade level. Those lists were turned in to the principals, who then met and worked to trim them down.

Mize Elementary School Principal Pam Hargrove said some of the items taken off the school supply lists included items such as hand sanitizer, specific art supplies, specialty binders and folders.

"Back-to-school time can be an expensive time so we are trying to make that more streamlined, simple and inexpensive," she said. "We are trying to make things as economically feasible as possible."

Hargrove said the schools will provide some of those items removed from the list. Teachers may put other wanted items on a wish list so that parents who want to help more can provide them.

The condensed list can be found at the district's Web site at www.usd232.org.

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