LONGMONT — Forget the calendar.
All that parents and kids need to signal the start of a new school year is the smell of fresh crayons and notebooks so new the pages stick together.
The summer barely begins when retail stores start hawking aisles of No. 2 pencils, lunchboxes and glue. Backpacks and gym bags still musty with the smell of sweat, chlorine, dirt and play are returned to the closet, as book bags that actually carry books once again make their perennial debut.
The hunt-and-gather tradition for back-to-
school supplies begins, however, with the end of the previous school year, when the supply lists are revised by school administrators and sent home.
Connie Syferd, executive director of elementary instruction, said the St. Vrain Valley School District does not have a districtwide supply list. Instead, each school and its teachers determine what is needed for back-to-school items for each grade level.
“Each spring, the schools submit their lists so we have it ready for the fall,” Syferd said. “Last year, we assisted a couple of schools by looking at their lists because we try to not overcharge families. If you’re a parent and, gosh, you have more than one child in a family and you have to buy supplies ... we just think about what is reasonable in terms of the things they need to bring.”
Syferd said the district does not maintain an official price range for its back-to-school lists, but school administrators try to keep the lists affordable.
“We will certainly work with families to find supplies,” she said. “We have a number of avenues to help families. Nobody is going to go without supplies.”
One avenue is the Pack to School program, which gives donations of school supplies or cash for students in need. The program was started in 1991 out of the Homeless Education program with the St. Vrain Valley School District. All supplies donated to the Pack to School program go to students in the St. Vrain Valley district.
While supply lists for each grade are different, “We try to be consistent across the elementary schools about the kinds of things families should bring,” Syferd said.
The staples of first grade include sharp-point Fiskar scissors ($1-$2), primary color crayons (15 cents for a box of 24 to $3 for a box of 64) and washable markers ($2-$3 for a box of eight), erasers, a pencil box, sharpened pencils (50 cents for a package of 10) and composition or spiral notebooks.
At some schools, Trapper Keeper binders and book bags on wheels are out, as are colored and glitter glues. On other lists, folders (5 cents to 10 cents each) and notebooks (also 60 cents for a six-pack, on the low end) of specific colors are requested, as are communal items like boxes of Kleenex (three for $4) and plastic sandwich bags.
“Certainly, schools and teachers have some autonomy in the items they request,” she said, “but we ask them not to be excessive.”
Syferd said, though, that these community items, which the entire class shares, are “volunteer only,” so parents can opt out of purchasing them.
“We’ve gotten away from pooling resources,” Syferd said, adding these items should be clearly marked as shared or donated items, so families know which supplies will belong to the individual student and which will be shared by the class.
Tracey Befus said she spent about $50 on supplies for her sons Noah, 6, and Alec, 9 — about $25 each. The boys are students at Sanborn Elementary, Noah in first grade and Alec in fourth.
While her oldest son is excited about the start of school, Noah needed a little prompting, she said. Befus said she used the novelty of a new backpack (one with a car motif, his favorite, for a mere $5) to entice her youngest son to drum up some enthusiasm for the new school year.
“It’s usually the one thing I use as an incentive,” she said.
But she admitted that getting her back-to-school shopping done early has it’s downside.
“In the past, I’ve been bad. I wait until the last minute and protest. I hate to think that summer is over.”
These retail stores have school supply lists for the St. Vrain Valley School District on hand for last-minute shoppers. The lists are also available online at www.stvrain.k12.co.us.
• Office Max
1120 Ken Pratt Blvd.
• Office Depot
2251 Ken Pratt Blvd.
800 S. Hover St.
• Wal-Mart Supercenter
2514 Main St.
1041 Main St.
835 17th Ave.
1770 Hover St.
2151 N. Main St.
Melanie M. Sidwell can be reached at 303-684-5274, or by e-mail at email@example.com.