Back to school is a strain on local families' budgets

Supplies, fees add up to hundreds



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Angel Mattson and her children, Kyle and Aaron, shop for school supplies at the WalMart store in Dallas. Many families have been shocked at the size of supply lists.

DALLAS -- Some Dallas parents are experiencing sticker shock as they scan the long lists of school supplies required for students this fall.

The hardest hit are parents with several children -- all of whom will need supplies, lunch boxes, backpacks and clothing.

Lynda Spencer, a mother of four boys who will be back in Dallas schools in the fall, said teachers are requiring more supplies than they used to.

"There's a lot more that I buy now than I did when they were younger," she said.

Spencer's boys are going into first, fifth, seventh and ninth grade. She said when her high school freshman was in first grade there wasn't such a demand for supplies.

This year, the supplies list for first grade at Oakdale Heights Elementary School requests 17 different items, including 24 pencils, six glue sticks, one box of snacks, one container of hand wipes, one box of facial tissue and one ream of copy paper.

At Lyle Elementary, first graders are supposed to have 12 items including plastic gallon bags, a bottle of hand soap with a dispenser and three optional items such as hand sanitizer.

Supplies are requested in such large numbers because they are pooled for classroom use, and Spencer said the increase may be because of budget changes and less state money for schools.

Perrydale School and Falls City Elementary showed similar nontraditional requests, but requested smaller amounts of supplies, such as only three glue sticks per child at Falls City.

Spencer said for high school there isn't a list, so her son is waiting to receive class syllabi to see what teachers need besides a binder and paper. She said she has spent about $30 per child on supplies so far.

This is a smaller amount for the family than usual because she said they all are reusing the backpacks the children used last year. New backpacks can cost from $25 to $45.

As far as trends are concerned, she said her boys weren't really after certain items, but her youngest was very concerned about one thing.

"Little boys have very specific ideas about their lunch boxes," she said.

For new clothes, she said she spent about $150 on each boy for shorts, jeans, T-shirts and shoes to start the year.

The biggest cost of starting a new year can be the fees, Spencer said.

"You're talking a lot of money outside (supplies)," Spencer said. "It can be kind of spendy."

For her ninth-grader, she had to purchase an activity card ($24), pay the physical education fee ($7), foods class fee ($15), and the sports fee is $115 for each of his two activities.

She also had to pay fees for her seventh-grader, including an agenda ($9), towel fee ($14), physical education ($16), and $100 for his participation in each of three sports.

Because the fees can really add up, Spencer said she does not shell out money for optional items like yearbooks or school photos and packs lunches rather than paying for hot lunch each day.

To cut costs for supplies, shop local last-minute sales, look for lower prices on backpacks and other items online, skip trends and only buy essentials, and college students should contact campus bookstores for required class texts and order books on the Internet.



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