Cost for a fourth-grader's school supplies: $80

Children who head back to school this week are more in need of school supplies than in previous years.

"I have to suspect with the economy doing what it's doing, there's going to be more of a need," said Deb Stenberg, Federal Way School District spokeswoman.

Nearly 50 percent of Federal Way students qualify for free or reduced lunch. Those students are likely to need help with school supplies, especially this year with rising costs of fuel, food and other household necessities.

"To qualify for free and reduced lunch, it's a pretty low threshold," Stenberg said. "It follows that those are the families that need more resources."

School supplies can be expensive. At Star Lake Elementary School in Federal Way, for example, all of the items on a fourth-grade school supply list would cost nearly $80 at Wal-Mart. Many Federal Way families must shop for more than one student.

As students progress into middle and high school, some classes require even more expensive supplies such as graphing calculators. A typical graphing calculator at Wal-Mart can cost more than $100.

While local churches and other organizations strive to gather enough donations to meet the school supply need, teachers are often forced to purchase additional supplies using their classroom budgets — or money out of their own pockets.

Gina Cory, a Camelot Elementary School parent who was shopping for her first-grade son last week, said that she buys double of everything on her school supply shopping list and donates the additional items to the school. She said her family is fortunate to be able to afford school supplies, and she wants to teach her children about sharing.

"Some people just don't have the opportunity to buy school supplies, but they still need an education like we do," Cory said.

The Federal Way School District is currently accepting donations of school supplies. Among the most needed items are binders, watercolor paints, scissors, boxes of colored pencils, sets of colored markers, wide-ruled and college-ruled notebook paper, wide-ruled and college-ruled spiral notebooks and backpacks. Donations can be dropped off at the district administration building or the district office in The Commons mall.

Students who are in need of school supply donations should talk to a teacher, counselor or other staff person at their school.

The Federal Way School District is collecting school supply and monetary donations for children in need. Donations will be accepted from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday at the Educational Service Center, 31405 18th Ave. S., Federal Way. Donations will also be accepted from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the district's office in The Commons mall near Sears.

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