Monday, October 2, 2023

As school prepares to start, some parents worry about the cost of supplies

While teachers are known to pay a lot of money out of pocket each year to provide supplies to students, parents also have to consider the expense of these items. (WYDaily/File photo)
While teachers are known to pay a lot of money out of pocket each year to provide supplies to students, parents also have to consider the expense of these items. (WYDaily/File photo)

While the tax free weekend has passed, some parents are still feeling frustrated about the cost of supplies they have to provide for their children at the start of the school year.

“I think the difficulties are mostly just what is required, they’re using more technology than ever,” said Katie Ross, a Williamsburg-James City County parent. “It is our responsibility as parents to pay for our students school supplies because it’s not the teacher’s and it shouldn’t be.”

Each year, the question comes into play of how much teachers are paying for supplies out of pocket for their classrooms. Many teachers say they spend hundreds of dollars on their classrooms at the beginning of the year and then hundreds more throughout the year.

RELATED STORY: In short supply: Teachers foot the bill for classroom school supplies

Eileen Cox, spokeswoman for Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, said each school’s budget includes a line item for instructional materials, such as school supplies, and money allocation is based on school enrollment numbers. The money is then used at each principal’s discretion and teachers can make requests individually or by department based on need.

But teachers aren’t the only ones who have to worry about providing and paying for a long list of school supplies.

“I feel like every school is short on money one way or another,” Ross said. “There are parents who make lower than middle wage and need the extra help, especially for the things that get really expensive like headphones.”

Ross is the mother of an 8-year-old at Matthew Whaley Elementary School and she said she has noticed that as her daughter gets older, the lists are getting more expensive. When her daughter was younger, lists were comprised of simpler items like pencil boxes and pens. Now, she is seeing more and more on the list that requires greater spending than ever before.

Dianna Anderson is a parent with children at various levels of the school district, with one in middle school, one in elementary school and another about to start kindergarten. 

“It’s harder with more children,” she said. “And the junior high [supplies] are more complicated. It’s graphing calculators, things like that.”

Anderson said one way the school is helpful is they provide laptops for the students which takes a large burden off of parents.

But, she said, the long lists of supplies are becoming more difficult each year and while many parents try to provide extra supplies for teachers’ classrooms as well, it still can be a difficult experience.

“I don’t think it’s on the teachers at all, it shouldn’t be their job because they’re not the parent of the child,” she said.

One thing she has noticed is the amount of school supply drives in the area is encouraging. 

Cox said individual schools often receive donations from various community organizations throughout the year and there are social workers who provide supplies to homeless students or students in foster care.

However, Ross said she isn’t sure information about those resources is as accessible to families as it should. As a former member of the Parent Teacher Association at Matthew Whaley, she was aware that there were items the PTA and the school could help provide. But if she hadn’t been a member, she doesn’t think she would know about it.

“If there are ways that things can be loaned, that they can provide, it would help,” she said. “Most people can get things like pens and pencils, but can they get a backpack? Sometimes even something over $25 can be a stretch for people.”

Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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