It’s hard enough for teachers to use their own funds to supply their classrooms every year. Now it appears they may also have to also find finances to have supplies to keep their rooms sanitary throughout an ongoing pandemic. Luckily, if the community wants to step up and lend a helping hand, there’s an easy option.
At the start of a normal school year, teachers comb the Internet for sales and use money out of their own pockets to stock up on school supplies for their incoming students.
They buy tissues and glue, notebooks and pens, staples and tape. Whatever a student could or would need in a classroom, they have to supply it.
In a normal school year, that would come with enough obstacles. Some parents would help ease the burden by bringing in duplicates of items requested for their children to bring. Other teachers received help via social media and word of mouth. The focus was always on the school supplies themselves as the worst sicknesses they had to worry about were flu season or a lice outbreak.
This year, things are different. With the majority of stores still restricting how many hand sanitizers, Clorox wipes and Lysol sprays one can purchase, the ability to fill a cart — if you’re fortunate enough to have the money to do so — is even less of a guarantee.
Teachers aren’t even sure if their classrooms are going to open. And if they do, they have to protect not only themselves but the dozens of students that spend the majority of their days sitting and learning in their room. And they aren’t protecting them from a sniffle or a slight fever, there’s a chance the rapidly spreading illness could result in death if things go wrong.
It’s a lot to face and many local teachers have voiced strong opinions on social media both for and against going back to school.
Hillsborough County’s School Board has been live-streaming meetings as elected officials attempt to figure out the safest and best ways to navigate this complex issue. The videos have received thousands of views as parents and teachers alike tune in to figure out what is expected of them in the coming weeks.
A clear answer hasn’t been found yet. So if you go to Target or Walmart, you’ll more than likely see men and women quickly darting down the aisles picking up their limited amount of supplies to start prepping for the new year.
A survey from Deloitte found that 66 percent of K-12 parents as well as 62 percent of college parents are feeling anxious about sending their children back into classrooms because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Interestingly enough, that same study found that parents aren’t shopping the way they usually do. Instead of buying new clothes or traditional supplies the parents are turning toward an interesting formerly niche market: technology. While 2020 spending for back-to-school excursions is expected to match that of 2019, the percentage of purchases that are spent on technology-based learning tools is expected to jump.
There are multiple reasons that could be the case, but signs indicate many families have learned firsthand how crucial quality tech is when their children are trying to connect to virtual classrooms. The survey also found that parents are planning to spend more on personal health products than usual. It is estimated that parents will spend an average of $46 per student on supplies like hand sanitizer and wipes.
If it holds true, that survey puts teachers in an interesting position. They’ll still need to have an abundance of sanitary items, as the reality is not every student will be prepared and the teacher will be responsible for frequently cleaning and disinfecting the classroom. But if students are spending less on traditional supplies, they will need those fully in stock as well to make up for the lack of materials brought into their classrooms.
The Plant City Observer has been contacted by several people who either are teachers or know teachers who have created Amazon wishlists in hopes that the community will step up to help ease the financial burden of keeping their classrooms safe while also having everything needed for a positive learning environment.
Shineta Armour, a preschool teacher at Discovery Point in Valrico, is asking for items ranging from nursery peel-and-stick wall decals to a magnet alphabet. Jenna Elizabeth, a third grade teacher at Knights Elementary, is on the hunt for pens and plastic envelope folders. Lane Proctor Jones, another third grade teacher at Knights, is looking for ring binder organizers and a desktop file folder for students. Kayla Jo Stewart, a second grade teacher at Walden Lake Elementary, is hoping to find a variety of children’s books on top of the traditional school supply list.
Caitlin Orein, a teacher at Turkey Creek Middle School, has a few traditional school supplies, but is also leaning into the need to keep her classroom germ-free. Kleenex boxes, disposable face masks, Lysol disinfectant spray, Clorox wipes, hand sanitizer and more are on her wish list.
The Observer also reached out on Facebook and responses on a post there continue to accumulate. If readers are interested in helping out this fall, they merely have to head to the Observer’s Facebook page and click on the comment section on the post where there are an abundance of wishlists being posted. The links take viewers directly to Amazon where they can pick which items they want and have them shipped directly to the educator.
Until the school district decides once and for all what the next school year will look like for the county, teachers have to play it safe rather than risk not being ready for a year unlike any other.