Claudette Warrick was shocked when she got her children’s back-to-school supply lists.
© Nancy MacPhee/Journal Pioneer
Krystle Peters, left, and Claudette Warrick hold school supply lists for their children, each who is entering Grade 1 but at different city schools. Peters’ list cost about $25 while Warrick’s list, which was more specific and more extensive, cost in excess of $60.
Each was specific, detailed and long, with items such as white board markers, highlighters, specific brands of glue and erasers, even plastic spoons and baby wipes.
And that was just for her daughter, Chloe, who is entering Grade 1 at Parkside Elementary this fall.
The list came home with Chloe’s kindergarten report in June.
Warrick says she almost fell to the floor when she read it.
“Everything has to be a certain brand,” says the mother of three. “I didn’t want to buy it.”
She thinks the cost and the lists are outrageous.
“Reid’s came in the mail for kindergarten. His is easier than Chloe’s. Some of the stuff is particular but it is not as particular as Chloe’s,” says Warrick, reading off Reid’s list, which includes a package of computer paper.
“It’s ridiculous. Seriously.”
Warrick shopped at three different stores to find all the items on the list, travelling as far as Kensington to find Chloe’s scissors, which had to be a certain brand.
“Searching for it is what drove me crazy.
It is all certain brands,” she says. “The (store) manager had to help me find some of it. It was three or four different trips to buy all this stuff.”
The grand total for just supplies — the pencils, pens, scribblers, erasers and such — came in at about $100 for both.
According to a Pollara survey funded by the Bank of Montreal on back-to-school costs, parents, on average, will spend $428 per child this year — an 18.2 per cent increase over last year, when parents said they planned to spend $363 per child.
Quebec has the highest project cost per child, at $501, while the Prairies and Atlantic Canada were tied for second at $450. The lowest was Ontario at $390.
Those amounts include school supplies, clothing (a pair of jeans, two shirts, a sweater, running shoes and three pairs each of socks and undergarments), accessories like a backpack, pencil case and lunch bag, and miscellaneous items like a gym uniform and lock.
And last year, when her daughter, Brooklynn, entered kindergarten, Krystle Peters, another parent, had the option to pay a $30 fee and items would be supplied.
“We just had to buy a school bag and sneakers,” says the mother of two.
The mothers question why, if their children are both attending Grade 1, where the curriculum ought to be the same, schools, the lists vary so much?
And Warrick questions why she has to buy specific brands when Peters doesn’t? And asks why things like dry-erase markers, baby wipes and plastic spoons are on the list?
On each Grade 1 list and on the kindergarten list, it says not to open packages, and supplies will be labeled at school.
“There are a number of approaches to the materials and the supplies that the children bring to school,” says English Language School Board superintendent Cynthia Fleet. “This is really school-by-school and sometimes within schools and sometimes within the same grade there may be differences.”
While consistency across the board is encouraged, it is up to the individual teachers at each school to come up with a supply list, says Fleet.
“Parents who have concerns, they should ensure that they raise this with their teacher, principal, school councils or their home and school associations. That is a good discussion that should happen between parents and the school.”
Fleet adds, “The practices in the schools here are similar to most jurisdictions.”
The superintendent says the list is the guideline parents should follow. That way, she adds, all students have the same items the first day of school and parents aren’t buying unnecessary items.
There are schools or individual teachers that opt to collect a fee and, in turn, the student is provided with supplies.
It’s a much easier route for parents but not necessarily for the teachers, says Fleet.
“That puts the onus on the school to collect the money, track the money. Some schools do that and they are very appropriate decisions and practices.”
But when it comes to items such as dry-erase markers and baby wipes being on the list, Fleet was concerned.
“I have to ask why a student needs to bring a marker for a white board?”
It’s something the board superintendent plans to investigate.
“I would want to question that,” she adds. “For the most part, when we view instruction in a classroom, a white board marker and an eraser would be instructional materials and all schools are given budgets for teaching supplies.”
At a meeting Thursday at Summerside Intermediate School with principals, Fleet raised the question about why the lists vary from school to school and even the same grades within the same school.
She understands why some teachers specify certain brands for certain items, since they know, based on years of teaching, on what products work best.
And when asked why parents are being asked to buy large amounts of items such as pens, pencils, paper and even tissue at one time and leave them unlabeled when they send them to school, Fleet had this to say:
“Some children will be there with boxes of Kleenex and some have none and they lose them and they are messy in the classroom. That way, instead of keeping it personally at their desk, the teacher will look after everything.”
It’s something Warrick and Peters disagree with and think is unfair.
Essentially, say the women, they’re providing supplies to those who either don’t have what’s on the list or can’t be bothered to get it.
So, are some parents supplementing some students?
That, says Fleet, isn’t clear.
“If there are parents that are supplementing for those that may not be providing, that needs to be analyzed… at the individual school level,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to guess (if that’s happening). The parents and teachers in a particular situation would know if that’s happening.”
Warrick and Peters admit back-to-school shopping has been eye opening.
For Warrick, by the time she bought supplies, sneakers, backpacks and lunch bags the total for Reid and Chloe was about $200.
Being a stay-at-home mom who takes in kids and with husband who works to support the family of five, there’s little, if any, money left for new clothes.
Peters, on the other hand, was luckier.
Her tally, with sneakers, backpack, lunch bag and supplies, was about $100. With Brooklynn’s birthday earlier this month, there are a few new outfits for Grade 1.
Both understand the popularity and need of programs such as the YMCA’s Equipped, which donated backpacks filled with supplies and a pair of sneakers to 200 low-income children, and Operation Backpack, which is aiming to donate 200 backpacks of supplies to children in need.
“I should be on the list to get one,” Warrick says with a laugh.
Fleet notes there are many students, due to financial constraints, that come to school each fall with little or no supplies.
“You are talking about a child’s self-esteem. There is nothing that can surpass that. Every child has to feel that I have what I need and I am positioned like everyone else in my classroom,” adds Fleet. “You cannot have a child feeling that they have less, therefore they are less. How that student feels is so important.
“Some of that is how schools bring in supplies, so that everybody is on an equal footing.”
Grade 1 supply list for Parkside Elementary
This is the list Warrick got for Chloe: three boxes of 24 Crayola crayons, three white Staedtler erasers, 24 Staedtler Norica HB 2 blue pencils, pair of blunt Westcott or Crayola scissors, five duotangs (yellow, red, blue, green, orange, one plastic pencil box, three UHU glue sticks 40 grams or bigger, two large yellow highlighters, three yellow 72-page half plain, half lined Hilroy notebooks, two light blue 72-page plain Hilroy notebooks, one dark blue 72-page dotted interlined Hilroy notebook and two packages of dry erase markers.
Also on the list was the choice of one of the three: one box of 72 Crayola crayons, one box of 18 large tip Crayola markers or one box of 24 small-tip Crayola markers.
Four boxes of tissue, one package of baby wipes, one box of large Ziploc bags, one box of plastic spoons, one school bag, one lunch can and a pair of indoor sneakers.
Grade 1 supply list for Elm Street Elementary
On that list are the following: two packages of Hilroy pencils (12 pack), three boxes of Crayola crayons, four Pink Pearl erasers (large), three large glue sticks, one pair of rounded tip scissors, two packages of Hilroy lined scribblers, eight duotangs (two red, two orange, two green and two black), two plastic cover duotangs (one red and one green), one package of loose leaf (100 pages), two boxes of tissue, six large Ziplock bags, six medium Ziplock bags, one plastic crayon box with cover that holds crayons and pencils, one scrapbook, one colouring book, two and a half interlined notebooks, school bag and indoor sneakers.