As Hernando County schools prepare to reopen on Aug, 24, teachers and students are scrambling for supplies to make the coming school year a success.
For the third year, United Way of Hernando County is pitching in to help with the Stuff the Bus project, which begins Friday and runs through the weekend.
The goal is to collect donated school supplies and gift cards for students and teachers.
The program is expanded this year, with school buses to be stationed at eight sites, up from the original one bus at a single site, said United Way executive director Kathy Jones. Teachers will be staffing the buses, she said.
Students and teachers began penciling wish lists of their needs and wants last May.
"They can sometimes become costly for parents to supply," Jones noted. She mentioned the need for dictionaries per student, as little as $1 for a paperback edition at a discount store.
"Paper, composition books, spiral notebooks," she added. "Sometimes it's nice to have students have all the same thing," Jones pointed out. She illustrated with composition books — the black and white marbleized covered pages — preferred for submitting essays, reports and journal renditions rather than on ripped pages from spiral-bound notebooks.
"They go through pencil sharpeners like crazy," she added of the students. "They go through crayons like crazy."
Calculators are a need in algebra classes.
Dry markers for white boards, which have replaced air polluting chalk on blackboards, are a request from teachers, as well as dry board erasers.
Some teachers also wish for printer ink cartridges, others for a classroom globe of the earth; one asked for a shelving unit, while another requested beanbag pillows to create an inviting reading nook for youngsters.
"If we were to put a dollar value on (Stuff the Bus), I think it would be well over $25,000 a year,'' Jones said. "We've been really pretty good at everything they need on the wish list. Every year it's getting more and more successful." Office Product Supplies and Staples "have been very supportive, been very, very kind to us," she said.
Sonya Jackson, assistant superintendent for the Hernando school district, said, "(Teachers) don't always have as much money as they want for extra crayons, glue, memory sticks. Teachers can order items from school catalogs with discretionary dollars."
Jones cited reports that some teachers spend hundreds of dollars a year out of their own pockets on supplies for their students. "It is just not in their budget to do that," she said.
Beth Gray can be contacted at email@example.com.