To students' dismay, it's back-to-school shopping season

Lists of needed items can add up; districts have programs to help needy families

By Susan Parrish, Columbian education reporter



Breakdown: How much does it cost to outfit a student?

Sixth-grade supplies for Covington Middle School, Evergreen Public Schools, purchased at a Target store:

2-inch, 3-ring binder: $3.79.

No. 2 Ticonderoga pencils: $2.89.

Loose-leaf notebook paper: 99 cents.

Highlighter: $1.50.

Pink Pearl eraser: 52 cents.

Blue or black pens: $3.99.

Ruler: 99 cents.

Binder dividers, five pack: 97 cents.

3-inch-by-3-inch Post-It notes, store brand: $2.09.

Glue stick: 50 cents.

Scissors: $1.89.

100-sheet composition books; 3 at $1.50 each: $4.50.

Pencil sharpener: 90 cents.

Colored pencils: $2.99.

3-pronged pocket folders: 15 cents.

Dry Erase white-board marker: $2.54.

Two boxes of tissues: $3.

Ream of printer paper: $3.14.

Thumb drive: $8.99.

Sturdy Swiss Gear backpack: $40.

Spiderman lunch box: $9.99.

Total: $96.32


Evergreen Stuff the Bus

When: 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.

Where: Parking lot of Spanky’s Legendary Consignment, 13503 S.E. Mill Plain Blvd.

Why: Goal is to fill two school buses with new backpacks and school supplies that will be donated to low-income students in Evergreen Public Schools. Cash donations will be used to purchase school supplies.

Donations: The Fishers Landing Burgerville, 16416 S.E. McGillivray Blvd., will donate a percentage of Wednesday’s sales to the foundation. Customers can also bring supplies to the fast-food restaurant.

Information: 360-604-4022.

On the Web: Evergreen School District Foundation

North County School Readiness Day

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Friday.

Where: Battle Ground High School, 300 W. Main St., Battle Ground.

Why: Ensures students from low-income families in north Clark County are ready for the new school year by providing backpacks filled with school supplies, gently-used clothing, free immunizations, food, more.

Donations: Battle Ground Public Schools, Sea Mar Community Health Center, North County Community Food Bank, Adventist Community Services Food Bank, Sharing Is Caring, service clubs and individuals.

Volunteers: They are still needed to help organize the clothing. Eligible students must qualify for free or reduced lunch program to participate.

Information: 360-566-4410 or 360-566-4427.

On the Web: School Readiness Day

Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools

Where: Drop donations at the district office, 2901 Falk Road.

What: Most needed items are backpacks, composition books, 2-inch ring binders, index dividers, colored pencils, protractors, wood rulers, pencil boxes, jump drives, new socks, underwear and boxes of tissue. No lunch boxes or bags or glue sticks.

Information: 360-313-4730.

On the Web: Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools

The seasonal back-to-school supplies aisles at the Target in Hazel Dell were buzzing with bargain-hunting parents and their reluctant kids on a recent afternoon.

Jennifer Dunham, whose 9-year-old twins, Gordy and Mahle Dunham, will enter fourth grade at Lake Shore Elementary next month, was armed with a printed list of school supplies and an organized stack of coupons.

Her children and the other kids stuck in the back-to-school supplies aisle on this summer afternoon, on the other hand, did not seem to want to think about school starting yet.

"Please, come pick out one of these," another mom pleaded with her wandering kids.

"I overbought last year during some really good sales, so we'll be able to use those supplies from last year," Jennifer Dunham said as she added to her shopping cart a package of two yellow highlighter pens on sale.

Each child needs one highlighter, so Dunham said she'll split the package, one for each twin, she said.

Dunham says for the last couple of years, she's spent about $25 per child on school supplies, not counting backpacks or lunch bags. This year, she estimates she'll spend $35 per twin because "the sales aren't as good."

"This year, my kids are more concerned with style and image," Dunham said.

Both of her kids need a new backpack at the beginning of each school year. She says it's best to pay more and buy a

better brand because they last longer. The cheaper backpacks fall apart, Dunham said, and then she'd have to buy a replacement backpack to get through the year. Even with the more expensive backpacks, Dunham said, "they won't last another year."

Dunham also buys a new lunchbox for her kids every year because, "They are heavily worn by the end of the year."

Retail stores have grouped their school supplies in big bins. Many stores seem to mark certain items very low to attract back-to-school bargain hunters like Dunham. Office Depot is selling two-pocket folders for a penny apiece and kids' scissors for a buck. The penny deal at Office Max are one-subject, 70-sheet notebooks. But the fine print of the ad says "after $5 minimum purchase."

Lists of school supplies are posted online on school district websites. Lists also are available in local stores. Supply lists vary by school district and grade. As of Monday afternoon, Battle Ground's school supplies Web page had received almost 2,300 hits, said Gregg Herrington, district spokesman.

Some schools request students bring a ream of printer paper. Most lists have communal items including tissues, zippered plastic bags and white board markers. Advanced math students in middle and high school require scientific calculators, which can be had for about $13. But students taking advanced algebra and calculus require a more expensive graphing calculator, which runs from $96 to $124.

The Columbian shopped at Target with the sixth-grade list from Covington Middle School in the Evergreen school district. With the supplies, a very good backpack and a Spider Man lunchbox, the supplies totaled $96.32 before tax. Subtract the backpack and lunch box, and the total before tax was $46.33. That's a chunk of change for cash-strapped parents who also likely need to outfit their children with shoes, clothes and coats.

Parents from low-income families can get help with back-to-school supplies through school district foundations and other nonprofit organizations.

On Wednesday, people can donate school supplies to low-income students in the Evergreen School District at a stuff-the-bus event organized by the district's foundation. The goal is to fill two school buses with donated backpacks and school supplies. Last year, the foundation provided school supplies to more than 300 students.

On Friday, low-income students in the Battle Ground, Green Mountain and Hockinson districts will gather at Battle Ground High School to choose new backpacks, school supplies and gently used clothing during the fifth annual North County School Readiness Day. Last year, more than 950 backpacks filled with school supplies were distributed to K-12 students.

In the Vancouver district, supplies are delivered to students through the Foundation for Vancouver Public Schools. Some private companies, including Coldwell Banker Commercial, are collecting donated backpacks and school supplies for first-graders through the end of the month.

"We'll see how many full backpacks we receive," said Rhona Sen Hoss, executive director of the foundation. "We'll look at the highest-need schools and let the schools decide which classrooms get them."

Some of the most needed items for all grade levels are new backpacks, colored pencils, wood rulers, boxes of tissue and computer jump drives, Sen Hoss said.

Clark County families are encouraged to purchase extra supplies and donate them to their district's foundation or office.

Susan Parrish: 360-735-4515;;