School supplies: Costs add up for Federal Way families

In case you hadn't noticed all the flashy ads and store displays, it's back to school time.

For parents, that means back to school shopping.

Long gone are the days when paper and pen were all that was needed for the classroom. Today it can cost more than an evening out on the town just to get the kids' supplies.

There is no one set list for all schools and grade levels, but there is a consensus for what is needed for elementary and middle school students. Supplies for high schoolers tend to vary much more depending on a student's class schedule.

For elementary school students, the cost for school supplies — even while bargain hunting — can run from $30 to $55 per student. For middle school students, the cost can range from $30 to $65.

For a list of supplies that appeared on most Federal Way school supply lists, along with a comparison between stores, see the accompanying sidebars at the end of this story.

To combat these expenses for low-income families, several groups have already held school supply drives. For example, Communities in Schools of Federal Way had more than 1,200 pounds worth of school supplies donated; that amount will be match by Red Canoe Credit Union for Federal Way students.

The district has also put together its own drive and received donations from Staples, Wells Fargo, Wal-Mart, Fred Meyer and Costco to assemble a basic set of supplies for each school.

However, this year the school district anticipates the need will be even greater, and donations are still requested, said spokeswoman Deb Stenberg.

The district is looking for backpacks, binders, pencils, crayons, glue, paper and tissues.

Checks can also be made out to Supply Our Schools, and any donations can be dropped off or sent to the district office, 31405 18th Ave. S., Federal Way, WA 98003.

Families who need school supplies are urged to contact their school's counselor.

To learn more, e-mail or call (253) 945-2266.


Price check: Elementary school supplies

List of items: Backpack, #2 pencils, glue sticks, crayons, watercolor set, scissors, glue, big erasers, folders, spiral notebooks, tissues, Ziplock bags, sticky notes, binder, notebook paper, pencil pouch, pens, markers, dry erase pens.

• Total cost of these items at Office Depot: $53.35

• Total cost of these items at Target: $37.58

• Total cost of these items at Wal-Mart: $31.67

Price check: Middle school supplies

List of items: Backpack, three-ring binder, spiral notebooks, notebook paper, pens, #2 pencils, pencil sharpener, markers, colored pencils, dry erase pens, Sharpies, highlighters, big erasers, glue sticks, calculator, index cards, compass, protractor, scissors, tissues.

• Total cost of these items at Office Depot: $67

• Total cost of these items at Target: $45.13

• Total cost of these items at Wal-Mart: $32.60

These prices are based off of walking into each of these stores and seeing what could be found at the lowest prices. Some prices may not actually be the lowest, but they were the prices found by reporter Kyra Low.

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