Lawrence Public Schools
Caleb Dickinson-Cove, 7, and his sister Anya, 9, pored over piles of crayon boxes and other school supplies this week at Target, 3201 Iowa.
Amid their energetic rush, Caleb and Anya were preparing for their return Aug. 15 to Schwegler School.
They stopped with their mom, Sahja Cove, to test out some backpacks.
Parents of students in Lawrence and area schools hit stores this week to buy school supplies. The earlier, the better, both for cost and selection, they said.
According to a recent national survey, families are expected to spend about $560 on back-to-school merchandise, which is up about 7 percent from $527 last year. That spending number includes many other items besides supplies, such as clothing and shoes. The National Retail Federation's survey mostly attributed the increase in costs to higher prices for electronic items such as computers and printers.
Sahja Cove estimated the family would spend close to $1,000 on back-to-school items but only about $50 on supplies.
"It's very affordable, I think. It's all comparable," said Cove, who will teach Spanish at Lawrence High School this year.
Added into back-to-school costs are Lawrence public school enrollment fees: $112 for students in all-day kindergarten through sixth grade; and more than $200 for junior high and high school students, depending on factors such as how many activities they participate in and whether they need a parking pass. Waivers are available for students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, and the district offers payment plans.
In Lawrence elementary schools, the school supply list for grade levels has stayed relatively the same for the past several years, two principals said. Teachers review it every two years, and individual schools are allowed to subtract but not add major items from the list.
"For the most part, the principals understand and try to keep it simple," said Elias Espinoza, principal of Wakarusa Valley School.
Parent-teacher organizations or local charities often collect supplies to donate to those who need them as well.
Cove said she considered the investment in back-to-school spending worth it. More than a year ago, the family moved from a California district with no fees. She noticed a poor quality of textbooks there.
"We didn't pay it, so what you get is quite limited," she said. "People seem to value education here and are willing to spend money on students in general."
Parents also said they were conscious of prices for overall back-to-school spending, particularly with gasoline prices around $3 per gallon recently.
"It definitely adds up. We try to recycle a few things, but it's fun for them to pick out new stuff," said Melissa Howard, of Eudora, whose daughters, Lauren and Emily, will attend elementary school there.
The family has cut down on day trips during the summer, she said. Wal-Mart stores earlier this month cited the national survey and fuel prices as the reason for dropping prices on back-to-school items.
Parent Bill Riley called buying back-to-school items "the cost of doing business."
At Target this week, he was with his daughter, Michaela, a Wakarusa Valley fourth-grader, and son, Justin, a South Junior High School seventh-grader.
"It's a fun time. They enjoy it. Well, Michaela enjoys it," Bill Riley said.
"I put it off. I don't want to think about it," Justin said.