The West Valley School District made an announcement this spring that created some happy and relieved parents – the school district will buy school supplies for all its K-5 elementary school students in the fall.
Assistant Superintendent Vicki Leifer said the idea came from the district’s business manager, and they’ve been discussing it since January. The district wanted to help families who have lost jobs or been unable to work during the pandemic.
“We know that families are finding themselves in different situations financially,” she said.
The one hiccup has been determining what school supplies to buy. The district has four elementary schools and a kindergarten center, and in some buildings there’s one supply list for each grade level and in other buildings each teacher puts together their own supply list.
The district has roughly 200 students per grade level, which makes the district responsible for school supplies for between 1,000 and 1,200 students, Leifer said. As an example, the district needed to buy 3,000 No. 2 pencils just for the first-graders at Ness Elementary.
The district purchased the supplies from KCDA, a purchasing cooperative for Washington state schools.
“We don’t wait for it to go on sale at Walmart,” Leifer said. “We buy it in bulk.”
The focus has been on buying high-quality supplies, whether it’s pencils (Ticonderoga) or glue sticks (Elmer’s), Leifer said.
The families of elementary students will still be responsible for providing a few items, including a lunchbox, backpack, pencil box and nonmarking P.E. shoes (if applicable). That will allow families to still have something of the back-to-school shopping tradition, Leifer said, but parents won’t have to worry about most of the school supplies that can sometimes cost upward of $150 per student.
“If you have three kids, that can be detrimental,” she said.
The district announced the new program on social media and sent home notifications to parents. Leifer said the comments left on the district’s Facebook page were positive.
It’s estimated that the district will spend between $5,000 and $7,000 for each of the five buildings to purchase school supplies, Leifer said. The district is using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Recovery COVID-19 relief funding from the federal government to pay for the effort.
Leifer said the district is hopeful that it will be able to carry the program forward .
“We hope we’ll be able to whittle down our school supply lists and make them more common, and we can continue to do that after the funding sunsets,” she said.
Increased federal funding also means that all students, not just low-income students, will receive free lunch during the next school year, Leifer said.
The district will also host a drive-up meal service this summer for all children under the age of 18. The program will run Monday through Thursday from June 28 to Aug. 21, with the exception of July 5. Meals will be available at West Valley High School from 11 a.m. to noon each day and at Centennial Middle School from noon to 1 p.m. each day. Two days worth of food will be handed out each Thursday.
Nina Culver can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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