Schools, organizations provide help with supplies

As the start of a new school year draws ever closer, parents and students alike have plenty of things to get ready for: sports, new classes and teachers, and new assignments. Part of being ready for school means equipping students with the supplies they’ll need to complete note taking, projects and assignments, both in the classroom and back at home.

Each school in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has lists for which supplies are needed for each grade, and most are available on the schools’ websites. Parents who can’t necessarily afford every item on the lists should know that many of them are suggestions, and that there are organizations in the Homer area ready to lend a helping hand.

Some grade levels, like those in elementary schools, could require more craft-like items such as crayons and colored pencils than are needed at the high school level. The way school supply lists are generated can vary from school to school.

At Chapman Elementary, for example, each teacher submits or updates their list in the spring and the school posts them to parents and the district, said Chapman Principal Conrad Woodhead in an email.

“Homer Middle School evaluates the school supply list each year with the grade level team,” Homer Middle Principal Kari Dendurent said in an email. “The supplies are for each individual student and not donated to the classroom.”

At Nikolaevsk School, for example, the lists are generated by the teachers, said Principal Mike Sellers, and some items on lists could be holdovers from previous teachers. The lists are kept pretty basic, he said.

Sellers emphasized that some supplies included in the school’s lists, like pencils and notebooks, are what each student would need at a basic level while many others, like earbuds and facial tissues, are more suggestions. In the close knit community of those who send their kids to Nikolaevsk, Sellers said there’s an understanding that the supply lists are suggestions of things that will make it easier on students, but not necessarily requirements, as the school has a stock of supplies as well.

“We have extra stuff here, and it’s pretty seamless,” Sellers said of getting supplies into all the students’ hands.

In the past, people have donated extra school supplies to Nikolaevsk as well, Sellers said, which are kept there for the kids. Homer Middle School also gets donations from anonymous families, Dendurent wrote.

“In an effort to assist students with some of their supplies, we purchase the composition books and sell them for $1,” she wrote. “Based on the list, we try to ensure the cost of school supplies is not exorbitant. Students are also provided with their PE uniform, which includes a pair of shorts and a T-shirt.”

Dendurent also cited the school district’s Students in Transition Program, which serves students without stable housing. The program connects those students in need with a back pack and supplies, she said.

“If students do not qualify for this program, (Homer Middle School) works with students and their families to ensure students have supplies,” Dendurent wrote.

For those who don’t qualify for the Students in Transition Program, but still have a financial need, the Omicron Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma in Homer holds an annual back-to-school supplies drive through the month of August. Those who are already clients of the Homer Community Food Pantry are eligible for the supplies. Karen Murdock coordinates the drive, and has been doing so with a team of people for the past 11 years, since the project started.

“I was volunteering at the Homer Community Food Pantry during the summer and … I had my eyes open in terms of how people are struggling to make ends meet,” she said.

Murdock was teaching at the time, and her mind went to schools supplies and how, if people were in need of food, they were probably in need of those as well.

The drive has grown substantially since it was first created, she said. About three years in, someone donated backpacks. Then clients began asking about the backpacks, so they became a staple of the drive. With a drop-off receptacle in Ulmer’s Drug and Hardware, the project’s coordinators try to meet the minimum amount of supplies that are requested on school lists, Murdock said. Groups including the Homer Emblem Club, Kachemak Bay Lions Club, Rotary Club of Homer Downtown and Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club lend time and support to the Omicron Chapter. The chapter this year has also received a start up mini grant from the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club, backpacks from the Homer Emblem Club and financial donations from Kachemak Bay Lions Club and Rotary Club of Homer Downtown, Murdock said in an email. Members of both rotary clubs also help pack the backpacks with supplies.

Additionally, Save-U-More and Homer Art and Frame Co. have given the Omicron Chapter discounts on supplies, and the Homer Brewing Company supports the supplies project with a financial donation.

“It levels the playing field, I think,” Murdock said of the drive. “Demands have gotten larger on students I think, and families … it really helps kids start the school year on a positive note.”

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