More Hernando County teachers than ever are asking the community to help provide day-to-day classroom supplies for their students for the coming school year.
Some 200 teachers have registered for the seventh annual Stuff the Bus campaign, which will take place Friday through Sunday, sponsored by the United Way of Hernando County. That's 40 to 50 more teachers than last year, including some at private schools, said United Way executive director Kathy Jones.
Yellow school buses at 11 sites in the county will beckon contributors from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day of the drive. Conveniently, the buses will be at stores selling school supplies, and some of the stores are playing their part in the campaign by staging sales.
As Jones perused teacher wish lists, she noted a big demand for composition books, dry erase markers, pens, pencils, crayons, regular paper, "all those normal things." An eye-opener this year, she said, is repeated requests for pink erasers, the hand-held size.
"(Facial) tissues are always a big deal," she added.
For donors who don't want to do the shopping, Jones said the bus volunteers will gladly accept gift cards and cash. Financial contributions are spent to purchase any shortfalls in donations.
"We usually have to purchase ear phones, dictionaries and thesauruses," Jones said.
Teachers who have asked for student supplies are required to help staff the buses for at least two hours. Teachers who volunteer more hours — some give up to 10, Jones said — are in line for a drawing of any extra items. Volunteers also include United Way board members, representatives of its partner agencies and community members.
Stepping up on Monday to unstuff the buses will be staffers from Jericho Road Ministries and Hernando school bus drivers. At United Way headquarters on Commercial Way, volunteers will sort and bag the items according to teacher requests. Publix Supermarkets has donated paper bags.
Although the school district's budget for 2013-14 is healthier than in recent years, assistant superintendent Sonya Jackson said the allocation to teachers for classroom supplies remains the same. The amount depends on the grade level and subject, she said. For instance, high school needs are costlier than elementary grades. The arts — sheet music and painting canvases, for example — require a greater outlay.
Allotments are provided per school, with principals dividing the money among classrooms, Jackson said.
In the past, teachers have said they spend $200 to $500 of their own money on student supplies annually.
Beth Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.