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Time to Load up on those School Supplies

You can look for the sales, but sometimes teachers give out very specific requirements, and sometimes you only get them on the first day of school.

For area parents, back to school season means cooler weather, shorter evenings, and many, many trips to , and other stores. With shopping lists soon in hand—how do you get it all, without sacrificing your budget or your sanity?

Some lists, particularly in elementary school, go out over the summer, giving parents a nice jump on the back-to-school shopping. Other parents and students will wait until the first day of school to receive lists from their new teachers.

Regan Allan is the parent of four kids, an eighth grader at Dolan Middle School in Stamford, a fifth grader and second grader at Stark Elementary School in Stamford, and a four-year-old.

“It’s great when you have a month to get everything, but it’s frustrating when you get lists on the first day of school and the kids are expected to have everything the next day or by the end of the week,” Allan said.

“My very organized high school junior has a system that works for him best (binder, notebooks, folders etc)  but he also is instructed by each teacher on the first day of school as to what specific supplies he should get for the following day,” Carolyn Smalley, whose two children attend Fairfield Ludlowe High School and Ludlowe Middle School in Fairfield, said.

Schools from around Fairfield County echoed that most middle school and high school students will have to wait until the first week of school for their shopping lists.

“Kids should come with the basics, something to write with and something to write in,” said Becky Bieler, secretary to the housemasters at Norwalk’s . “Every teacher will have their own requirements.”

Just how specific these lists can be is another subject with lots of variation around Fairfield County.

“The lists can be very specific—three spiral notebooks in red, green, and blue, a certain calculator and number of pencils," Allan said. "When runs out of a certain thing, sometimes we'll end up at CVS which gets expensive." (Editor's note: Unless has a sale.)

"Some of my older son's teachers leave it up to the students as to what works best for them," Smalley said.

To help with the first week of school rush, many parents will often try to anticipate what things their kids might need and buy up some of the basics in advance.

“A big trick is Grade A and will have great sales over the summer, when you see spiral notebooks for ten cents, just stock up,” Allan said.

“One great tip is to buy triple the amount of folders for each child. They don't last a full year and usually they need to replace them a few times during the school year,” Smalley said. “They go through loose leaf paper quickly, so I purchase quite a bit of this at the beginning of the school year. I also buy things like document covers, index cards, and binder dividers at dollar stores throughout the year."

Some schools have also started to offer programs like boxed school supplies—buying everything directly from the school is often more expensive, but the convenience can be worth it to busy parents who know the proceeds are going to their child’s school.

For others, a little speedy shopping is worth it for the ritual of getting the kids ready for a new school year.

“We actually have fun doing it as crazy as that may sound,” Smalley said.

Editor's note: "Tax Free Week" in Connecticut is this coming week, from Sunday, Aug. 21 through Saturday, Aug. 27, when clothing purchases of up to $300 are free from the state's 6.35-percent sales tax. (Keep in mind that the state no longer exempts shoes and footwear priced below $50 from sales taxes.) For more information, see from state Rep. Gail Lavielle.

The first day of school in Norwalk is different for different students. Here's the schedule as given out by Norwalk Public Schools:

Wednesday, Aug. 31—"Staggered Entry"

  • 1/2 of Kindergarten (families will be notified)
  • Grades 1-5
  • Grade 6
  • Grade 9
  • Grade 12 (Norwalk High School only)

Thursday, Sept. 1:

  • 1/2 of Kindergarten (families will be notified)
  • ALL other students report

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