School supplies classroom necessities

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 3, 2009

The national economy has gone down and costs have gone up, butback-to-school supply lists remain expensive for some areaschools.

According to a price comparison done by The DAILY LEADER onseven local first grade supply lists, parents from Lincoln andsurrounding counties spend an average of $49.72 to purchase thepencils, paper and notebooks necessary to pack their 6-year-oldsoff to school for the 2009/2010 school year. And while some schoolsrequested only the minimum supplies and published a relativelycheap list, others have asked for a much fuller shopping cart.

At $73.62, Monticello Elementary School has the most expensivesupply sheet in the area, but it is followed closely by EnterpriseAttendance Center’s $65.20 list. The third-most expensive firstgrade list is from Wesson Attendance Center and totals $57.66 forboys and $51.55 for girls, for an average of $54.60.

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Mamie Martin Elementary School has the cheapest supply list inthe area at $31.56, and Bogue Chitto Attendance Center ranks secondwith a relatively inexpensive list of $35.22. The remaining twoschools – Loyd Star and West Lincoln attendance centers – havesupply lists of $42.12 and $45.77, respectively.

And the lists aren’t just for academic supplies. Aside frompencils and paper, most of the lists ask for sanitary and supplycloset items like Germ-X, Clorox Wipes, boxes of Kleenex, rolls ofpaper towels and Ziploc bags. The Monticello list asks for one canof shaving cream, and Wesson boys have been asked to bring one canof Lysol.

Supply lists are compiled by teachers, reviewed by principalsand approved by boards of education. Local superintendents said thelists are expanded or reduced and released annually based onclassroom need, a teacher’s teaching style and even tradition.

“If you took district funding to buy all those things, youwouldn’t have some of the software and workbooks we have,” saidBrookhaven School District Superintendent Lea Barrett. “There’s afinite pot of money, and the fact our parents are willing to buysome of those things allows us to buy other instructionalsupplies.”

As far as education goes, district money may be better spent onclassroom technology than on hand sanitizer, but school districtsdo buy many of the same items on the supply lists. But Barrett andother superintendents said the lists are not designed to substituteschool-provided supplies with parent-provided supplies.

“We obviously buy the stuff that one typically uses to clean therooms and restrooms,” said Lawrence County School DistrictSuperintendent Tony Davis. “We use the stuff they brought to bringgreater cleanliness to the desktop and to their little hands. Wedon’t plot and strategize to say, ‘We can move money out ofcleaning supplies.’ No, absolutely not.”

So, if a school district doubles up on paper towels and handsoap, why are parents asked to purchase those items as well?Lincoln County Superintendent Terry Brister said classrooms burnthrough the supplies quickly, and everything on a back-to-schoolsupply list is used during the school year.

“When they go outside, they get a squirt (of hand sanitizer),”he said. “When they come back in, they get a squirt. When they goto the bathroom and come back, they line up at the door. Everyparent that does this helps us. This is just a way to make iteasier, more convenient on the schools.”

Efforts are made to keep the lists trimmed, Brister said.Enterprise is the only Lincoln County school that lists sanitaryitems on its supply sheet, and even then such items are grouped as”optional.” He said parents can rest assured that for all the itemson their supply lists, even more have been thrown out at some pointduring the compilation process.

“We look at the overall composite, see what’s needed the mostand what’s not,” Brister said. “The ones that are used the most,that’s what you look at – that and logic and expense.”

Davis, meanwhile, said the Monticello first grade list has notbeen examined recently, but said it would be reviewed again soon.When told the total price of the Monticello list and some of theitems on it, he was taken aback.

“It sounds like we do need to take a look at it and make suewe’re keeping it at a minimum,” Davis said. “We will enter into adiscussion as to whether all that’s necessary and what we do withit.”

Even though some of the lists are expensive, all threesuperintendents said district parents make few -if any -complaints. And while dutifully purchasing the items listed on thelists are a big help to schools, parents are actually under noobligation to purchase the recommended items, whether their listssay “optional” or not.

“It’s all optional,” Brister said. “We can not force (parents)to do this, but most all of them do. If we had to supply it, we’ddo it without any qualms. It would just be extra money we have toput out.”

If the school supply lists prove too much of a burden for someparents, Barrett said there are mechanisms in place to assist them.If a first-grader were to show up at Mamie Martin without any ofthe items from the supply list, she said school officials wouldcontact the student’s parents and work out a solution, likelyinvolving assistance from parent groups and local charitableorganizations.

“If a parent just forgot, that’s fine, but if the parent says,’Look, I just can’t do that,’ that’s when the teacher and principalwill work together to get the supplies they need,” Barrettsaid.