Tag Archives: school supplies

Could School District Save Parents’ $$$ with Bulk Buying?

Like swallows to Capistrano, students and educators have flocked back to area schools to start anew the educational cycle for 2009-10. Preceding the annual return to the hallowed halls is the parents’ annual trek to area stores and malls to meet the demands of the back-to-school supplies necessary to keep the classrooms running efficiently.

Not to sound like the proverbial old coot, but “when I was a kid,” we seldom had to bring more than a notebook of lined paper and a sunny disposition to start a new school year. I remember my teacher even handing me a shiny and unsharpened bright yellow No. 2 on the first day. But tightening budgets and burgeoning classrooms have conspired to create the system we have today, wherein parents must supply the class with many of the necessities that schools routinely supplied in the past.

Today’s student is lacking if she doesn’t bring a box of tissues, crayons, erasers, markers, notebooks, reams of paper, tape, rulers, glue sticks, highlighters, Ziploc bags, hand sanitizers, scissors, calculators, pocket dictionaries and enough pencils to build a bridge that would put the Tacoma Narrows to shame.

What got me to thinking was the demand for reams of paper. I got to wondering just how big the stack of paper would be if you totaled all the students in all the classrooms in all the schools in the Peninsula School District who were asked to bring a ream of paper to start the year. This rather simple query turned into a laborious task of Sisyphian proportions as I took to amassing the school supply lists of the 15 schools in the PSD realm.

The results of my query resulted in four rather cumbersome charts, which can be accessed as PDFs labeled in the following:

psd-09-supplies-per-student (SPS): Shows the supplies needed by each student in each grade, with a total dollar amount per student factored in with the pricing guide.

school Supplies by Grade/School (SGS): Shows totals of each item requested for each grade, based on projected enrollment numbers for 2009-10 posted on the PSD Web site.

psd-09-total-supplies-by-school (TSS): Shows total number of each item requested by each school, with a total for all of the districts eight elementary and four middle schools.

psd-09-supplies-prices (SP): Shows estimated cost of each item, total requested for the school district and the cost to parents based on these amounts.

As a matter of full disclosure, please note there are a number of discrepancies that make this list necessarily incomplete. For one, the high schools are not represented as class supply lists are not posted online. The per-student total is not completely accurate as a number of the supplies can be purchased at different stores for different prices — sometimes for big discounts at some stores. Also, the per-student total can be skewed by unlisted items, i.e. middle school students are required to provide gym clothes and some, locks for a locker, and none of this is incorporated into the cost totals.

Likewise, many parents refuse to purchase the total amount of some items requested, i.e. a student may be asked to bring 10 glue sticks, but a parent supplies three or they opt to not send some of the requested supplies to school at all.

And naturally enough, there is the matter of recycling. Many parents save items from one school year to the next — such as watercolor paints, or reusable items like calculators and rulers — eliminating the need to purchase the item anew each year. The costs per student shown on SPS assume that a parent is buying every item on the list as requested for the new school year.

Now I’m no statistical engineer, so my math and logic is in no way meant to be comprehensive or complete. Rather, this little project  led me to pose the bigger question: Given the distressed economy, could the school district pool the teacher wish lists, purchase the major accoutrement at a discounted bulk rate and save parents a lump sum of cash?

And like any statistical study, interesting facts and heretofore unasked questions come up when the data is laid out side by side.

For example: While most schools require at least one box of Kleenex per student, kids in Goodman Middle School must have particularly runny noses as they are expected to supply 2,196 boxes of tissues for the 549 students — a total of four boxes per student. And kids at Artondale and Purdy elementary schools plan to glue a lot of paper, with both schools expecting more than 3,500 glue sticks, while Evergreen Elementary and Goodman Middle School students will glue nary a dozen pieces of paper together with Evergreen asking for little more than two glue sticks per student and Goodman less than one per student.

And my original question on reams of paper? Students at Harbor Ridge and Voyager didn’t need to weigh their backpacks down on opening day as they were not asked for any reams, while Kopachuck tipped the other end of the scale, requesting 1,112 reams from the 656 students. Districtwide, a whopping 4,355 reams of paper were expected to be collected. With a ream of 20 lb. bond measuring 2 inches deep, that’s a stack of reams topping out at just over 725 feet high. If you were to stack the reams 10 feet high, you would need a closet measuring at least 6.5 feet by 7.5 feet and 10 feet high.

Anyone who has manipulated statistics knows you can create a number or set of numbers to represent just about anything you want. Looking at the numbers, a parent could wonder why a fifth grader at Artondale requires more than $80 in supplies while his counterpart at Minter Creek can meet her needs with less than $20. And do Artondale third-grade and Harbor Heights fourth-grade teachers really expect to go through 60 pencils per student in one school year? (That’s a new pencil for every three school days.)

But that’s not the point here. I’ll leave that kind of number crunching to those of you who feel compelled to look into this further. My point is to the school district. Couldn’t the district, with its buying power, purchase the non-reusable items on the lists each year — say  like the 23,432 glue sticks (parent price of 3 for .99 cents, costs parents $7,732.56), 7,714 Kleenex boxes (.99 each for a total of $7,636.86), and 4,355 reams of paper ($2.99 per ream, $13,021.45)?

The district could recoup the funds by then charging the parents what it paid for each item, so the parents are still footing the supplies bill, but getting the district’s buying clout.

It just seems to me a good starting off point to talk about the district looking to be innovative in ways to help parents meet the needs of the classroom by using its buying power to reduce the overall costs of going back to school. Anyone agree?