As spruced-up kids headed for school today, many toted large plastic bags and backpacks filled with school supplies, paid for by parents who may have spent upwards of $100 to fulfill their teachers' wishlists.
At nearby PS 321, where a hyper-active parents association raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, mothers and fathers crammed the aisles of office supply stores and drugstores, buying dozens of items.
Julia Gronowetter, the parent of a PS 321 1st-grader, said she spent more than two hours in a Staples store and just under $100 to purchase every item on her list and a few of the optional ones.
"The aisles were crammed," in the Union Square store she visited, and she had to hunt down salesclerks to even find some items hidden on tall shelves in boxes. Still, it was better than last year, she noted, when her husband, their five-year-old in tow, spent three hours in a Park Slope store just before school started.
A mom from a Manhattan middle school shared the list she received for her sixth-grader:
"On the first day of school, in addition to two book projects and two book summaries, he has to bring in:
- A paperback dictionary
- $15.00 in cash, check or money order for general supplies
- A three ring binder and or five subject notebook
- A plastic zippered pencil and ruler holder.
- 2 pens
- A pencil sharpener
- 10 pencils, two in pencil case, 8 for the teacher
- A small assignment book
- Two rolls of paper towels
- Two boxes of tissues
- One set of fine line magic markers
- Current nyc library card
- A flash drive
- one liquid paper wite-out
- A ream or two of copy paper. .
- 6 self addressed stamped envelopes for PTA
- a book to read in school
- a sense of humor and a good deal of patience"
Not all parents can afford the time, or money, to buy reams of school supplies. We wondered how schools with a high percentage of poor parents handle classroom wishlists.. At PS 24 in Sunset Park where 95% of the students are eligible for free lunch (as compared to 14% at PS 321 in the same district), supply lists are sent home in June enabling parents to take advantage of summer sales and spread out the shopping.
"We've always done that," said Principal Christina Fuentes. "Parents expect it and they want the list over the summer," She estimated that the total price tag may not top $25 if parents find marble notebooks, pocket folders, markers and the like on sale. Supplies are collected in the schoolyard outside the building so that "nobody sees if someone can't afford supplies."
Educators need classroom supplies more than ever this year since the "teachers choice" program which allowed teachers to make purchases for their classrooms and to be reimbursed up to a dollar limit was suspended due to budget cuts this year. Last year teachers could spend up to $110. dollars of their own money and be paid out of a fund set up by the UFT and the city.
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