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Pasco County school supply lists are voluntary, principals say

LAND O'LAKES — School supply lists for next fall went home in many Pasco County students' backpacks on the last day of classes, and some of them looked pretty daunting.

They asked for scissors, crayons and glue sticks. They also asked for tissues and baby wipes, batteries and copy paper.

Buy everything on the list for a first-grader at Oakstead Elementary, for example, and it could cost you nearly $120.

But freak not, school district officials said.

"All supply lists are voluntary," assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said. "They are just a way of supplementing what schools provide."

With the economy taking its toll on many families, that's a message that needs to get through to the community, Reilly said. The district's elementary schools division is planning to have all principals make it crystal clear that children who cannot bring in the items won't go without.

"We are not going to limit access to the curriculum based on your ability to pay," Reilly said, noting that even high school course supply fees are requested but not required.

That's the view emerging from several area school districts.

Hillsborough superintendent MaryEllen Elia, for example, told all principals to limit the length of their supply lists "in order to give parents a break," spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

At least one Hillsborough school, Schwarzkopf Elementary in Lutz, cut its list back to five items per grade level. A parent with a first-grader there could buy all the needed supplies for about $20.

Pasco's Oakstead Elementary, on the other hand, had one of the longer supply lists that came out.

Its list included some new items this year, such as C batteries (for teachers who use cameras in class a lot) and copy paper (white and colored). Principal Tammy Kimpland acknowledged the list was not small, but noted it had changed little from past years.

'Wish list' just a guide

Mom and PTA president Melanie Calvo wasn't bothered by the number of requested items, adding that she was pleased to have it early enough to take advantage of all the summer sales.

"Being on the PTA, I can really see the school is using all its resources, and it takes a lot to run the school," she said. "I am happy to provide whatever it takes for my kids to get a good, quality education."

Many parents are like Calvo, buying more than what's on the list so the school has plenty of supplies to go around, Kimpland said. Others can't afford that. And there's no pressure to pony up, she said.

"Most of our parents ask us what more they can do," Kimpland said. With such support, "nobody goes without."

Other schools took different steps to limit the impact of the supply list.

New River Elementary slashed its list in half, putting many items on a "wish list" for parents who can afford to help.

"The wish list piece is things that really do help, but because of the economy we can't ask," New River principal Lynn Pabst said. Things that remain on the list are "crayons and pencils and those things that are just the basics."

Seven Oaks Elementary deleted its wish list altogether.

"What we said was, 'No wish list. Only the essentials,' " Seven Oaks principal B.J. Smith said. "It's just the essentials. If you don't need it, just don't ask. … It's having empathy for our families."

Some schools in high-poverty areas don't even ask for supplies at all, Reilly said, knowing the parents won't be able to afford them.

Long or short, Calvo said, the school supply list remains an important part of children's education. The main thing for parents to remember is that anything they can do helps.

"I don't think the schools are squandering what they have and then asking us to give them more," she said. "Our kids are the ones who benefit."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Many Pasco schools sent home their supply lists for the fall on the last day of school, giving parents plenty of time to prepare. Though some lists may look long, officials emphasize that these are only suggested items, not required ones.

Here's a comparison of the things a first-grader is being asked to bring to one Pasco County elementary school and one Hillsborough County school, along with the prices for those items at office supply stores:

Oakstead Elementary (Pasco):

Lanyard: $1.78

Backpack: $9.88

Scissors: $1.50

2 packs sharpened No. 2 pencils: $3.98 ($1.99 per 12-pack)

Box of colored pencils: $2.59 for 12-pack

2 boxes crayons: $3.58 ($1.79 for 16-pack)

2 boxes washable fine point markers: $9.78 ($4.89 per 8-pack)

2 boxes fat-tip markers: $9.78 ($4.89 per 8-pack)

Pack of wide-ruled notebook paper: $1.99

Bottle of glue: $1.29

2 packages of glue sticks: $3.98 ($1.99 per 4-pack)

4 plain pocket folders with clasps: $1.96 (49 cents each)

Spiral notebook: $2.49

2 black and white composition books: $4.98 ($2.49 each)

Package of 3 x 5 index cards: $1.49

Container of baby wipes: $3.99

Family-size box of tissues: $4.49

Roll of paper towels: $1.49

Package of C batteries: $7.99 (4-pack)

Bottle of hand sanitizer (girls only): $4.99 (8-oz Purell) OR bottle of antibacterial soap (boys only): $5.29 (12-oz Micrell)

2 boxes zipper-style plastic bags (quart and gallon): $6.58 ($3.29 each, one of each kind)

2 boxes zipper-style plastic bags (sandwich and snack): $6.58 ($3.29 each, one of each kind)

Ream of white copy paper: $4.79

Ream of colored copy paper: $7.99

Package of dry erase markers: $4.49

Package of highlighters: $3.49 (6-pack)

Total: $117.92

Schwarzkopf Elementary (Hillsborough)

Tool box: $9.99

Scissors: $1.50

2 spiral notebooks: $4.98 ($2.49 each)

Package of glue sticks: $1.99

Box of crayons: $1.79

Total: $20.25

Pasco County school supply lists are voluntary, principals say 06/07/09 [Last modified: Sunday, June 7, 2009 10:52pm]
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