Speaking of School Supplies.

Updated on August 10, 2014
J.S. asks from Georgetown, TX
30 answers

So last year my LO started kindergarten and I received this long list of supplies for school that was instructed "do not label with student's name because they will be shared." I understood from my previous post that the supplies would be "community property" so that those kids whose parents do not/can not purchase schools supplies would have some. However, I was wondering while I was shopping for this year's supplies which listed 2x or more of the same item; where did all the supplies I purchased last year went - you know, the ones that were not consumable such as the scissors, extra folders and notebooks? I only ask because another parent in a different grade was wondering if she should reuse the notebooks from last year that were only 10% used. Don't they reuse the non-consumable items? Don't they have a huge bin of crayons and scissors?

I just don't get why I am told to buy $100 (or more) of almost the same supplies every year for my LO and someone else's LOs - doesn't that seem wasteful?

ADD: We didn't receive any school supplies back at the end of the year other than her two spiral bound notebooks used for math and writing. That's why I was wondering what happened to the other items. I would love to label all my LO's school supplies and keep them year after year as I try to buy good brands that will last.

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answers from Phoenix on

I remember when my son was in K he had to have 24 glue sticks! I was like there better be some serious art projects coming home! lol I recall he brought home his scissors and items from his desk at the end of the year.

One year my husband and I didn't have the money to buy all their school supplies so I emailed the teacher and said I would get them when I could. I waited until they went on clearance and got them then. The teacher said it was fine because they get so many when school starts. So then I did that every year after.

Maybe ask the teacher what happens with all the supplies. I personally think they use them all. Good luck.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

geez. i get the reasoning behind the community property, but kinda sucks for the kids who are excited about the cool pencils and folders they picked out but don't get to use!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, my son came home the last day of second grade with a pencil bag full of pencil stubs, partial erasers, broken scissors, partial glue sticks (not all closed) and dried out markers. I didn't really see the point that he came home with this stuff - it went straight into the garbage. His notebooks fell apart by March, I had already replaced them. They are supplies and get used up, lost or broken.

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answers from San Francisco on

Do you really expect teachers and students to begin a new school year with bins full of broken, stubby crayon bits, dried out markers and glue sticks, pencils that have been used to the quick and scissors that have long since gotten dull and stiff?
Supplies get USED, period. Even before the end of the year these things are wearing out. I worked in first grade for three years and saw it first hand.
People (taxpayers) don't want to pay much for education, so parents are expected to pick up the slack. That's just how it is in America. I buy these supplies (gladly) so the teachers don't have to, and so all of our children have the tools they need to succeed.

11 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

Seriously, I consider this a "pick your battles" thing. Scissors get dull and wear out. Sometimes these kinds of things come home and sometimes they don't. Are you really going to throw a fit over a pair of scissors that cost $3? I happily provide supplies and ask the teachers several times throughout the year. I buy a bunch of stuff this time of year since it is cheaper and send in as needed. There is no way that a child only used 2 pencils the entire year. The kids go through most of those supplies.

I don't mind the community supply thing....I look at it as doing a good deed and a child gets needed supplies who might not otherwise. I have no control over what other parents do or how they prioritize their money, so I try not to even worry about it.

Seriously, there are so many other things to legitimately criticize about the education system...this one doesn't even hit my radar...

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

That is something to ask the school, or the teacher, or the PTA. Frankly, I see these posts every year and I am appalled. Sure, send in extra pencils, but scissors? And then your kid doesn't keep them in his or her cubby? They stay with the school?

My daughter's list is short. A few comp books. A pencil case. Crayons. Glue. That sort of thing. I'm donating tissues and gallon ziplocks from their wishlist. That pencil case will have a label on it, and it will come back home.

I frankly think that many schools have an overactive sense of entitlement. If they want new scissors every year, then let the kids keep the scissors and the parents determine if they need to be replaced or not.

When SD was in ES, she was asked to have a set of her own #2 pencils, and to provide one 12 pack box for the class. She was responsible for her first set, even though the teacher doled out from the spares. Why can't kids have ownership of items? Why do they have to share everything? I'd rather donate an extra box of crayons for someone who didn't have one than have my DD's crayons all go to a central bucket. DD's K class had a central bucket and we did not have to fill it. I think this year she will have her own desk.

Anyway, I find the whole supply list thing annoying. Sorry, but my kid might be carrying Roseart instead of Crayola and everybody is going to have to deal with it. I never spent $45 for one child for supplies, unless you count in HS when they needed a special calculator.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I sure get where you are coming from!

However...... things like notebooks, folders, crayons, and such are very consumable..... by the end of the year, the notebooks are worn out..... if the cover isn't torn, many times the rings are bent and don't hold things properly. Crayons get broken and worn down..... I'm sure the classrooms do have some of the supplies left, but they will be used up very quickly. Oddly enough, my grandson (in Kindergarten last year) brought home quite a few of the completely unused supplies from last year....... the teacher had a different organizational system she used for take-home folders and such, apparently.

Here is my grandson's 1st grade supply list:

2 plastic folders with pockets
4 folders with pockets & brads
5 spirals (wide–ruled)
1 pkg 12 x 18 manila paper
2 composition books
1 pkg construction paper
1 ream white copy paper
1 box of crayons(24 ct)
18 ct markers
1 pr scissors (blunt)
2 glue (4 oz)
8 glue sticks
24 #2 pencils
2 lg pink erasers
1 (4 pk) Expo dry erase markers (Crayola or Prang)
1 plastic school box
1 hand sanitizer (8 oz)
2 boxes of tissues
1 box gal resealable baggies
1 sandwich resealable baggies

I agree about the scissors and such...... by this time, unless it is a new teacher, she probably has a BUNCH of scissors left over!

One of my gripes (same school system as you, I'm assuming) was in middle school.... where each student was supposed to turn in a ruler, scissors, compass, and protractor to their math teacher... at that time, the math teacher taught 3 classes (for 2 periods each), so theoretically, they would be getting 60-75 complete sets of those items.... did they really need all of that? And... if my student used their own, then theoretically we could use the same ones from year to year... but... nope, they had to be turned in.

With 4 kids in school, it got VERY expensive... especially buying all of those dry erase markers every year! Also, some classes were asking for a ream of computer paper..... wow, was back to school expensive!

I work in one of the local middle schools, and also see that many students don't bring in any supplies..... and I also know that many teachers buy a lot of supplies for their classrooms every year.....

I don't have an answer for your question, but sure can commiserate with you on it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

My D goes to a great (just won a prestigious blue ribbon award!) elementary school. They usually have a day when you can stop by before school starts and drop off your supplies and say a quick 'hi' to there teacher. It's a great idea. No lugging supplies on the first day and they get a little acclimated. All the supplies go in shared bins, honor system, no body checks to make sure you have all the supplies you are supposed to. They request things like Kleenex and Clorox wipes too. I don't think the school is hoarding supplies ;) They probably go through a lot of crayons and pencils, so factoring in the whole school year it may seem like a lot. But I would guess most, if not many, teachers spend there own money on classroom essentials. My D does bring home her pencil box, etc after the school year and sometimes we reuse something, But for the most part things are well used and she needs a fresh start for the new year. I would concentrate on shopping the sales and assume the school needs the supplies. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Community school supplies - blah.

My son's school did the community thing in k, which I had no idea until a few weeks into school. I totally disagree with the whole sharing thing. So in first grade I told the teacher if my son can't keep his own supplies (like scissors and nice notebooks) then I wasn't sending any.

She worked it out where I got to write my son's name on everything I didn't want him to share and it all worked out fine.

I'm planning on doing the same thing at the beginning of each school year.

We live in a very wealthy community but they bus a few below poverty level neighborhoods in to alleviate the load of all our Title 1 schools all over our district. All year long we are hit up with providing supplies, funding and scholarships for the poor kids, through PTO and the school itself (like Angel Tree at Christmas), which my husband and I happily contribute to and make large donations, so I don't feel bad AT ALL that I want my son to use the specific supplies I buy for him and don't want any of his classmates to have access to them.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

My child brings the nonconsumables home at the end of the year and we reuse them the following year if needed. Consumables are used throughout the year and often need to be replenished, but if there are leftovers she brings those home too.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

They should have sent a pair of scissors home at the end of the year. At our school we at least get the scissors, ruler, pencil box and maybe a few other small things back at the end of the year. I remember in K, my son brought home a random pair of scissors, so I guess they just choose one and put it in their bag. What annoyed me is that I bought 48 pencils for my 5th grader and she used 2 pencils throughout the year, down to the stump. Meanwhile, my son had to beg for pencils in 2nd grade, because the teacher never had the extras out for them. One day I was volunteering and I found a few, nice new sharpened pencils and snagged them for my son. I know they never get access to all the supplies we take in. I have no idea what they do with all of those pencils and extra stuff at the end of the year. I think of it as charity to the teachers. We have family members who taught school for years and have quite a stash of school supplies now. lol. In their defense, they bought hundreds of dollars worth of science and art supplies for their classrooms that weren't covered by the school system. So, I'm sure the school got the better end of that deal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hmm, I would wonder that too.

In our school, we send in a pencil box with crayons, pencils, scissors, and a pencil sharpener. Each child brings a certain number of notebooks, each with a specific subject label. The box, what's left of the things inside, and the (now beat-up) notebooks all come home at the end of the year.

Separately, we are asked to send in consumables like tissues, paper towels, glue sticks, wipes. These things I would not expect to get back (and don't).

I think this question - what happens to all the left over supplies at the end of the year - is something you could ask at a PTA meeting this year. Maybe they are being thrown away, when someone could find a better use for them (even donating usable stuff to a shelter would better than throwing them away).

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I recall we always ordered the supplies sold in packs from the PTA.
Our daughter seemed to always have friends over so having 4 pairs of scissors came in handy they loved doing crafts..

Her spirals were pretty much all used up, glue was gone, colors worn out. Pencils were used.

Why don''t you volunteer at the end of the year to collect all unused, unneeded school supplies and start a supply closet at school?

I recall at the end of 5th grade, families were encouraged to bring in any "elementary type supplies" and donate them to the school. We culled these and the school uses this for new students that come in during the year, or students who have parents that cannot afford supplies. The scissors mainly went to the art teacher. It is amazing how may those classrooms go through from constant use.

You could collect the supplies and maybe make some class sets.
That way maybe parents would not need to purchase so much every year.

Or you keep all of the supplies your child brings home and you will not have to purchase new in the fall.

I do know that for organization purposes, sometimes certain colored note books or spirals are used. Like Blue covered spiral for Language arts, yellow folder for math so that has to be considered also.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Billings on

You would be surprised that scissors can be consumable. I teach and it is surprising how many pairs get broke or lost by the end of the year. I have had my kids bring home scissors a few time at the end of the year but not every year. Pencil pouches also get returned. Honestly most kids just throw that stuff away on the last day when they are cleaning out their desks. Ask your kids to bring home the stuff that is till useable and then maybe they won't follow the other kids and toss it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Springfield on

For kindergarten, we are told to put our child's name on the backpack, lunch box and scissors. Everything else is community property. So we do get the scissors back at the end of the year.

Kindergarten supplies are often collected by the teacher and used as needed but not just because some people can't afford it. It is also done because the kids usually do not have their own desk or other place to store their items. Also, it is so much easier for the teachers to have a caddy on each table with enough crayons for 5 or 6 kids. All the extras are in a storage bin on a shelf. When a table starts running low, that item is replenished. Can you really imagine putting 5 year olds in charge of their own supplies?

At our school 1st grade is when they get their own desk and an actual place to keep their things. We got everything back at the end of the year. My son did not need all those pink erasers the school asked for :-) My oldest will be in 2nd grade, and his teacher asked us to label everything (every box, every pencil, etc).

Were you told not to label things for 1st grade as well? Maybe your school doesn't give the kids their own desk until later.

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answers from Washington DC on

My kids do the same thing, only my younger two are still in elementary (the oldest is starting middle this year) and it's a Title 1 school. There are a lot of disadvantaged kids in our area, and my heart breaks for them. I know for a fact some only get to eat during school hours.

So as far as supplies go, we bought several of each requested item. That way the kids have what they need at home to do their work. Honestly, a pencil box, scissors, a big eraser, some pencils, and some crayons sets me back maybe $15 per kid. If the items they bring to school don't come home, it's okay. I assume they all get yucky throughout the year and will need to be replaced anyways. Crayons get yucky and broken, and can you imagine a room full of kids using the same scissors year after year? I'd rather buy new ones personally.

I get what you are saying completely, but I just think it's better to buy new.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

IME, the supplies are used throughout the year. Crayons go missing, get broken, etc. and new ones replace them.
I'd bet the teacher even buts MORE of all of the items in a school year.

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answers from Chicago on

I work in a school. Every year I see kids traipse huge amounts of things and oftentimes these end up in a locker for the rest of the year. This year as I watched all the children tossing things, I rescued backpacks, unopened paper, index cards, pencils,etc. I will bring those back when I start again to distribute at times. If you don't have too much opposition, send what you need for now and divvy it out during the school year. Things like scissors are definitely kept in a box or bin in our classrooms, and the teacher keeps them for the following year. Notebooks are waiting on shelves or in bins ready to be used. If you want to reuse the ones with just a couple of pages, tear out the used pages and send them along. It occurred to me too, why was I providing these things a lot over the years when there are often a lot of these things...the only thing I can see that needs replenishing fairly frequently are markers because they do dry out. My suggestion is you minimize your spending. There are actual requirements of what they need and then there are other optionals. I will tell you one thing that is forever necessary and appreciated KLEENEX. There I'm done.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

No school can make you buy anything. If you don't want to, don't buy them at all. Take a year off from the supplies if you want. Or go rogue and don't turn them in. Keep your kid's nice scissors, ruler, whatever else doesn't get used up (unlike pencils, glue, erasers) with her name on it in her backpack or pencil box.

I'm not being sarcastic. Just pointing out that usually school isn't trying to dictate, just suggest.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I don't mind buying certain things. I have 5 kids each with their own ridiculous list. This year our school is also asking for a $20 donation on top of everything else. Yes, everything is on sale now. No I don't mind buying these things. But add in another $100 on top of everything I've already boutgh? Come on now. I would much more appreciate if they would send a note home saying not all parents can buy these items so we are asking for extras to help out. I would be more inclinded to help a child out than to feel taken advantage of since my guys always have what theh need! I always ask about classroom needs throughout the year. But seriously, 7 boxes of crayons for kindergarten? That's extreme to me. But okay I bought them. Its a pick your battles kinda deal. This one, no one will ever win. The higher they go in grades the more you need. I just adapted to it. The second I see the stuff on sale I start picking it up.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

Ahhhh the age old school supply issue. Yes, I love/hate the community pool of supplies.
Love: because all the kids had what they needed.
HATE: because the kids who usually didn't have the supplies are the ones with moms who had designer handbags, a car newer than mine, nails done, hair done. but she couldn't forgo the hair appointment for her child!! yes, those moms I hate.
LOVE: because you know who the parents are who are TRYING so hard and just scraping by! and try and try but can only get their kids the generic crayons, well dump them in a bin and no one is wiser and the kid doesn't get picked on for being "poor"
I didn't usually but Crayola, I got RoseArt, its cheaper and well red is red no matter who made it.
as for all the other stuff (folders / spirals / and what have you) those get torn, worn and used.

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answers from Dallas on

Most of the things on the lists are used during the course of the school year. It looks like a lot of construction paper at the beginning of the year, but by the end of the year, the teacher is probably asking for donations or buying more paper from her pocket. We used to get back scissors, rulers, hole punches, protractors and half used glue bottles at the end of the year. And of course we also got back the graphing calculator if we were asked to supply it. There was also a donate box if the kids decided they didn't want any of those things. Also, the requirements in the first grade probably need some different things too. You will be buying school supplies for a long time.

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answers from San Francisco on

That would drive me nuts. Yeah, there's no reason you should have to purchase new scissors and crayons every year unless your child lost or broke all of hers. I would expect to buy new glue sticks, pencils, folders, paper, and notebooks (assuming my child had used up the old ones the previous year - otherwise, those can be re-used as well). Now that we are homeschooling, the only supplies I've bought for this coming year are new colored pencils (the old ones were getting very short) and modeling clay (we had run out of several of the "good" colors!).

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answers from Los Angeles on

WOW Scissors??? Crazy. Our list is basically all consumables:
2 reams of copy paper
any size ziploc bags
10 glue sticks
1 package dry erase markers
1 pack no 2 pencils
1 pack babywipes/clorox wipes
1 pack colored pencils
1 pack pencil erasers

I imagine everything on our list is used up by the end of the year per student. I am sure crayons are broken but scissors? no those can be reused. And if they need sharpening grab a role of aluminum foil and start cutting. Notebooks are perfectly fine. Reuse them. I even used my kids backpacks for 2 years and they were fine. Didnt buy new lunch bag as everything we went to this year seemed to be giving them away so we have like 10. Sorry if there is no hello kitty or spiderman on it. Here is a sticker.

I buy as many items as I can at one time and then I keep the list to buy what I missed when I can. And I buy cheap brands because I can't guarantee my kids will even get to use them. I was really proud of my 9 year old though. When we went to get colored pencils she said she had a whole box (plastic pencil box) that she was planning on using. I guess technically you can give them to your kid for personal use and they dont need to throw them in the donation pile.

I also wonder if things like crayons or colored pencils are just used as back up (maybe notebooks too) in case they get trashed, broken, spilled on and then cant be used. But I still cant get over the scissors. What else is on your list?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

Most teachers toss the left over stuff like crayons, markers, and stuff like that. Those scissors don't last forever but I think I'd like to make sure I got my stuff back if possible.

I think it's crazy how teachers have decided we can fulfill their every desire.

For instance in OKC my grand kids list was about 8 things. Pencils, crayons, markers, spiral notebooks, scissors, a ruler, and 2 different kinds of glue, there might have been a couple more things but they were simple needed things that are for the kids.

My grand kids here in my house have about 20 items on each list.

Pencils with erasers, red pens for grading, dry erase markers for the teachers, 6-8 book covers made of some material I can't remember...why can't they ask us to provide a few paper grocery sacks so the kids can make their own book covers? I don't get where they think we want to buy pretty stuff just because the teacher wants them to look like that.

I don't mind buying stuff for the kids to use, seriously, they need pencils, paper, a couple of spiral notebooks (Not 10 of various colors), glue, and some crayons/markers. They could use their other stuff left over from the previous year.

Teachers think we can afford to buy stuff on their whims. Seriously! I am not going to buy those book covers. That's stupid. Many of the kids in the class will not be able to afford those and I know that's why they asked for so many, so the poor kids will have them too. Well, we don't have money to spend on that.

In my opinion if a teacher needs personal supplies that should be something she can get from the office. Not make her students parents fork out a lot of money. It ticks me off. Really ticks me off. Why not have less supplies and let the kids keep their own stuff.

My granddaughter got a whole bunch of pencils with her name on them. She can't take them to school because she has to put any pencils she's not using in the storage closet to share. That's not right. Hopefully the new teacher won't be a hiney this year and will let her keep her own pencils and use them exclusively.

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answers from Williamsport on

My school is very poor. They don't ask for supplies, they provide them. But if they did ask for community supplies, I'd be OK with that. I feel fortunate that we are able to buy them. And thankful that we don't have to. Either way, I'm happy. Maybe you could speak to the office and ask special permission to use your own stuff. Can't hurt to try. Maybe they'd let you contribute AND keep your own stuff.

Waste is everywhere. Massively. Leftover supplies in school closets is just part of that crazy waste in this country. Not nearly as bad as the billions of tons of trash being poured out into the world by every business under the sun.

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answers from Wausau on

After kindergarten, most regular supplies stayed with the kid. Exceptions being pencils and glue sticks. Things like scissors came home at the end of the year. As well as extra supplies. (Possibly not the same ones I sent, but kids sometimes mix up their stuff!)

Often, a notebook will have only a few pages used. I pull those out and they reuse the notebook. I also buy poly folders that cost about $1 each. They usually last all year, often more than one year. The paper kind that are sold 10-25 cents might make it one quarter of a year and need to be replaced frequently. I combine partial bottles of identical types of glue to reuse.

Multiples of things are often meant to be kept at home until they are needed. It is cheaper to buy during back to school sales than mid-year when your kid tells you she has no glue or the markers dried out.

At the end of school year, if you were to stand in the hall and watch you would be shocked at how many kids were throwing away supplies. Not broken stuff, but unused extra glue sticks, a full pack of pencils, ruler, etc. In the trash instead of carrying it home. The schools started putting out collection bins so kids could donate instead of throw out. So sometimes, the reason supplies never come home is because of the kid.

Kids that can't afford supplies still need them, which is why the district has a huge supply drive every year. (They also do a clothing drive.)

Parents that can afford supplies but choose to not buy supplies on principle usually don't realized they are creating more hardship. In an ideal situation public schools would be able to supply everything, but we don't live in an area that has the funding to do that.

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answers from Dallas on

At our elementary school, supplies are presold with the quantities of everything requested. These supplies run from about $45 to $60, K-5th grade. Of course, no one is "required" to buy the presale packets but it does not make sense to me why not because you can't go to an office supply store and buy everything for the price of the presale items.

As far as distribution. Most everything is labeled with the child's name. EACH child has a pencil box with crayons, pencils, scissors, eraser.

The pencils that are brought in per child are put into labeled Ziploc bags for that child. The teacher will distribute pencils as needed from your specific bag.

Notebooks and folders are labeled and kept for each student.

The teacher also has extra paper which is "community" paper and used for spelling tests, etc.

Tissues, wipes and sanitizers are all combined and pulled out as needed.

At the end of the year, we are very low on tissues, wipes and sanitizer and usually the teacher steps up and purchases more with his/her own money.

Anything that was labeled and not used, is given back to the student. Other supplies left over (old markers, crayons, etc) are distributed to the children who want them. Workbooks provided by the school are sent home with children as well.

In all honesty, I've not seen many supplies ever be given back to the students because most everything is used up by March and has to be replenished. Some parents donate supplies needed to last until the end of the year.

It is strange on the community supplies to see how some parents want their box of tissues or wipes labeled as they are so afraid someone will cheat them somehow. There is one nationality that is known for this behavior.

Nothing is thrown away or wasted at our elementary schools. They try to forecast what is needed from each student so they don't have leftovers at the end of the year.

ETA: in Middle and High School it is different. EACH teacher has a list of supplies and to motivate the students to contribute, theyare given a positive daily grade if they do bring supplies. I fund it much more expensive in Middle and High School than elementary.


answers from Iowa City on

I dont mind buying supplies. In fact I am one of those parents who asks for the teacher's wish/need list numerous times throughout the year. But, what frustrates and annoys me is that we are given a supply list and are to bring those supplies to back to school night which is a few days before school starts. Then, sometime during the second or third week of school, 5 of the 8 folders requested, 2 of the 6 notebooks, 3 of the 5 erasers, etc. are sent home. I don't know if they ask for more than necessary in case some kids can't provide items or if they change their mind or what but I just save the supplies for later or find a use for them while grumbling about having to get 8 folders if only 5 are really needed.

At the end of the year the pencil box is sent home with scissors, ruler, broken crayons, maybe an eraser. Notebooks and folders come back but not in any let's use them next school year condition. The only thing I expect to get back are the headphones/ear buds that are used during computer lab and language classes.


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sure they still get used. They go through those supplies pretty quickly. I have 2 elementary aged kids and I just spent about $200 on supplies. Some of their supplies are for them to use (not to be shared), but things like glue sticks and pencils and crayons I'm sure those will be shared.

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