SHERIDAN — Every parent knows that back-to-school shopping can be a large endeavor with a large bill.
According to the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, in total, parents of kindergarten through 12th-grade students say they will spend $27.3 billion on school supplies this year, up from $18.4 billion in 2007. Similar studies show that parents expect to pay up to $100 per child for school supplies this year.
But local school officials said they work hard to keep those costs down, and a local nonprofit works to provide supplies to families who just can’t afford the bill for back-to-school shopping.
While officials from local schools said they don’t have any official policies in place for creating the back-to-school supply lists found in local retailers like Walmart, they added that teachers tend to know what is reasonable and what is not.
Mitch Craft, SCSD2 assistant superintendent for curriculum and assessment, said each spring administrators have discussions about how the lists are put together.
“They’ll say things like, ‘Times are tough for a lot of families right now, so let’s keep things to the essentials,’” Craft said, adding that those conversations are then passed down to principals and teachers.
“It’s not a topic we’ve ever had to intervene in,” Craft said. “Teachers work with the kids all the time and they have a feel for what is necessary and what would take it too far.”
SCSD1 officials agreed.
Big Horn Middle School principal Richard Welch said the staff at the school reviews supply lists each spring for items that need to be added or deleted.
“We work to keep it reasonable, noting that certain items can be shared in multiple classrooms,” Welch said in an email to The Press. “If a student doesn’t have supplies, or is unable to purchase what is necessary, we have school supplies that have been donated by individuals and organizations from the community; and supplies that we have purchased or perhaps are ‘recycled,’ not totally used up from previous years.”
All of the school officials also said that extra supplies are typically kept on hand for students whose families do not have the resources to purchase items each year.
“We always keep extra supplies on hand in the office, and routinely pass them out,” Tongue River Middle School principal Pete Kilbride said in an email. “Today alone, I gave out composition notebooks and planners to a few kids who I knew would have a harder time making the purchase. The teachers will usually let the office know if someone doesn’t have the necessary materials, and we follow up with them as well.”
When schools and families cannot meet supply needs, the local nonprofit Sheridan Angels step in and provide backpacks stuffed full of school supplies.
“They bring them to the school buildings and we hand them out, they are stuffed full of the basic school supplies kids need,” Craft said. “We’ve always handed them out and they’ve been extremely beneficial.”
Other school officials shared that sentiment.
The Sheridan Press picked up lists of school supplies available at Walmart and priced out the cost of supplies for elementary and junior high school classes.
The costs ranged from as low as $9 per student to as high as near $50 for the various grade levels. For elementary grades, the cost averaged between $20-30, but the costs climb in higher grade levels as the needs become more specialized or specific for various classes like math and science. Costs for high schoolers’ supplies becomes even more difficult to determine as the supplies needed depend largely on the classes students choose to take.
In addition, the costs outline only the school supplies listed, not items like clothes, activities fees and other costs associated with school.