Stepping up with school supplies

Photo courtesy Jimmiehomeschoolmom/Flickr

Kids go back to school in a week, which means for parents, one of the biggest financial pressures is rearing its head this week — school supplies.

Luckily, businesses, community groups and caring individuals are taking it upon themselves to help supply kids with everything they need as they head back to school.

Last week the West Flat Citizens Group (the Bernice Sayese Centre) helped out a handful of kids with school supplies. Some of those supplies were purchased by a Dakota Bear, Montana Primeau and Dakota Shepherd, part of a local music group called Times 2 Salute. They purchased enough supplies for 30 students, posing with carts full of the supplies in photos posted to Facebook.

Staples has also been running its annual school supply drive, which is set to wrap up on September 4.

“We’ve been doing this for 13 years,” said Prince Albert Staples general manager Tammy Hollaczek-Petruk.

Last year, the store raised $1.6 million in donations and supplies. The aim this year is to raise $1.7 million.

“All the supplies and funds collected will stay local,” she said, “which is really important because it helps support the school sin prince Albert and surrounding area.”

The school divisions themselves are also aware of the financial pressure back to school can place on families.

“What we’re trying to do is help all families really manage what happens at the beginning of the school year,” said Laurel Trumier, the director of education for the Prince Albert Catholic School Division.

“Students are going to need running shoes and some clothing, so we’re trying to offset that high time of need by looking at what the curricular items are we know are required, and match up what the needs are for school supplies.”

As a part of that process, the Catholic division has worked over the last two and a half years or so to look at the school supply list and reduce it to a basic list of needed items. As a result, all the elementary school supply lists look exactly the same.

“That’s not the same as in other schools in the province,” she said.

“We took an intentional approach to reduce that to just the basics.”

Trumier’s counterpart at the Saskatchewan Rivers (Sask. Rivers) School Division, Robert Bratvold, said the division and individual schools do a variety of things to help lessen the load.

“One of the things we’ve done is we have a pool of funding for vulnerable students, he said.

“Schools will have emergency supplies for when a student arrives partway through the year, or early in the year, without the school supplies they need.”

Bratvold said he knows that many teachers go through what’s left behind at the end of the year to see what can be recycled and reclaimed to be redistributed in Septemeber.

“Lots of teachers use those within their classroom for students who don’t have supplies,” he said.

Some of the Sask. Rivers schools deem it better to charge a base fee of $20 or $30 and buy supplies in bulk for all students instead of having each family go out and purchase their own.

Despite these initiatives from both school divisions, back to school still remains a challenge.

“There are always kids that can’t afford everything that some kids can,” Hollaczek-Petruk said.

“I think it’s great to be able to give back to the community through our customers. It’s great to see that they’re supporting their local community.”

“Within our area, there is a significant need for school supplies and other things kids need along the way, like winter coats and mitts,” Bratvold said.

“We’ve had generous foundations provide those in the past. The need is there, no question.”

Trumier thanked supporters for doing their part to ensure kids have what they need for back to school.

“We’re always grateful that there’s families who (donate),” she said.

“We also support the families … by trying to seek out those donations in the community.”