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There's got to be better way to equip kids with school supplies

Posted: Friday, August 29, 2003

I recently set out to purchase school supplies for my children to attend school this year. I know that the schools are having a hard time this year with budget cuts and poor test scores, but there has got to be a better way.

My family, like many of the families in this area, does not work in the fishing and tourism industry or the oil industry but rather in one of the service industries that help make everyone's lives easier. So when I picked up the list of required items for my children and tallied just the fees alone that teachers and schools require from each student, I already needed to spend a sizable amount for them to go to school this year and this did not include any after school activities they might want to participate in.

Then there was the task of getting the supplies that were on the "recommended list" for each grade level. Living on a budget like most families have to no matter what the income level of the family, you have to save up for this time of year to get them the supplies as well as clothes they need for the next year. Being as thrifty a shopper as I can, I tried to get the best deals I could with all the things they needed for school. With Big Kmart no longer here and there being such a limited choice of places to shop, I had planned to head to Anchorage before school to get the rest of the supplies but that was not in the cards. I then became one of the many that shopped here in Kenai and Soldotna for school supplies but held off on clothes shopping for another day.

I was lucky enough to pick up a few things they needed over the last few weeks but the majority had to be done just days before school. I was overwhelmed after going to countless places in search of supplies that most if not all the shelves were completely bare. I then began to wonder why this was not addressed earlier as a possible problem.

We all knew that without Kmart there would be fewer places to shop, but you would think that the stores in this area would have planned ahead and increased their supply to meet the needs of not only this and the close by communities but all the communities that shop in this area (like Homer, Seward, Ninilchik, Anchor Point, Seldovia, Port Graham, Nanwalek and Nikolaevsk to just name a few). Many of these families have to travel a great distance to get supplies and budgeting is essential to their trip. Yet

something as simple as reasonably priced gym/indoor shoes were impossible to find.

I know that it has been a long time since I went to school in this area, but I remember when I was in elementary school my parents were only responsible for my indoor shoes, one package of paper and a couple of boxes of pencils. Today I sent my grade school son to school with a pack that was so stuffed full that I had to carry it in for him because he could not stand up with it on his back.

There has got to be a better way to do this.

If the schools cannot afford to buy the supplies necessary, then perhaps for the sake of the parents and since we already spend considerable money on fees for them to attend public school they should just tally up the supplies necessary for the coming year and ask each family to contribute the amount needed for each child they have attending. If the schools did it that way perhaps they could buy in bulk from one of the many companies I know give discounts to schools and save everyone time, energy and money.

Parents these days don't even get a breath before they are hit hard by more fees. If it is not one expense it is another. I walked into the school on the first day to help my children with their supplies and saw a notice that school pictures are going to be at the end of September. Most families are struggling just to get supplies and then before we can even recover from the cost we get hit with school pictures.

Please figure something out, give us a bit of a break between costs. There are so many bright and intelligent people in this community that I know we can come up with something.

With the layoffs at Agrium and the lack of jobs from Kmart closing, this year has been very hard for more than just my family. Granted they are getting the old Kmart ready for Home Depot, but the jobs it has created at this point are nowhere close to the amount of jobs lost.

There has got to be a better way to educate our children without taking every last penny out of a parent's pocket and all at once.

Maggie VinZant , Soldotna



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