By Kev Kurdoghlian
Signal Staff Writer
After more than a year of learning from home, students going back to campus this year have had to revisit school supplies lists to ensure their equipped for success during in-person learning.
But shopping for school supplies can be more complicated than you might think.
To help parents navigate the back-to-school shopping season, The Sunday Signal spoke locals playing their part in the preparation for a new school year.
Three of Brendie Heter’s children are elementary school-aged this year.
The Castaic mom said she traditionally gives her kids a budget and lets them get their own supplies. This year, she also continued the tradition of taking each of her boys on a one-on-one school supplies shopping trip.
“I really enjoyed that tradition this year, of taking one out at a time, letting them go through the supplies we needed and supplies we don’t need,” said Heter, who had just returned from the Santa Clarita Walmart when The Signal spoke with her.
Heeter said the conversation surrounding supplies offers a valuable spring board for deeper discussions about the upcoming school year.
“It takes a while but then you can go through the aisle – and as we’re looking at supplies, they’re all excited – I’m able to talk to them about ‘what are you nervous for this year?’ (and) ‘what are you excited for this year?’,” she said.
The direction the conversation takes, Heter said, is in the parent’s hands.
“The child will just talk about the transformer folder, right,” she said, noting that her family is a family of faith. “You have to move beyond that.”
Heter said her family’s faith inspires conversations that include topics like standing up for other students.
“There’s going to be probably some kids who have backpacks from last year or maybe they had to use their sister’s backpack and it has a pony on it,” she presents to her kids. “What if you hear somebody who’s making fun of that?”
Heter also recommends buying in bulk, which is typically less expensive than buying smaller quantities, then splitting up the supplies among your children. She uses the opportunity for a quick math lesson, too.
“If I buy three of these for you and your two brothers, this is how much it would be and we would have this many markers,” she explained to one of her sons. “But if we buy this, we get 20 markers and it’s this much per marker and then he’s like, ‘oh.’”
Don’t forget to check the supplies that are already at home, too.
“Go through last year’s (supplies) and see what you can reuse,” she said. “It’s not very fun, but it’s also not wasteful.”
School-supply shopping doesn’t always have to happen before the start of the school year, which commenced for thousands of Santa Clarita Valley students this week.
Maria Gutzeit, of Newhall, said she’s a lot of people posting on local Facebook mom’s groups asking what they need to get their kids for school.
Wait to see what the school district tells you that your student needs to bring to school, recommends Gutzeit, whose daughter entered seventh grade this year.
“I found you actually don’t need to buy anything before the first day of school and often (the schools) don’t give you any list before the first day of school,” she said. “So don’t panic early.”
Gutzeit said the schools are there for the students and their families when it comes to supplies.
“If you don’t buy the three-ring binder, 2-inch thick in white, it’ll be okay,” she said. “Either somebody else will give you that binder or you don’t really need it, so it’s actually a lot less stressful than I thought.”
Stocking up on supplies can also be helpful approach to being prepared for the new year.
“I usually stock up on whatever they’re going to be using so all buy the 10-pack of notebooks or a whole bunch of pencils or markers,” Gutzeit said, noting she typically shops for school supplies at Target, Staples or Office Max. “And I would say get the better quality but try to find them at a discount, because you know you dried up markers don’t do anybody any good.”
Locally, parents and students can find some schools supplies at The Open Book, an independent bookstore on Soledad Canyon in Canyon Country.
Store manager Diana Roach said the store carries notebooks, pens, pencils, bookmarks and, of course, a lot of books.
“We also do have like a whole section for parents for like kids’ curriculum and the Kumon books for the different levels and ages on teaching kids math and language arts and things like that,” she said. “And since we’re (a) second hand (bookstore), we can sell everything at half the retail price, which is a huge help for families and teachers.”
Roach said the main issue she hears from parents during this time of the year is getting kids interested in reading.
“I was one of those kids who didn’t read a lot,” she said. “So, it’s just a matter of finding something (kids) interested in and we have a staff who’s really good at recommending books (and) finding things that kids want to read.”
Roach said fostering the passion for reading in kids “is just a matter of finding the right one.”
This school supply shopping season, help is also on its way from the Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clarita Valley, which has partnered with Michael’s to donate school supplies to club members.
“We want kids to start the school year right with the supplies they need. If kids have the right tools to learn they’re more likely to be excited about and retain what they’re learning,” said Matthew Nelson, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of SCV. “Especially this year, we want them to start the school year right.”