August 3, 2014

Back-to-school costs go far beyond paper and pencils

Hold onto your sunscreen, parents – the new school year is around the corner. And with it comes an array of costs you might not think about at first.

Hold onto your sunscreen, parents – the new school year is around the corner. And with it comes an array of costs you might not think about at first.

Stanislaus County students return to class as early as Wednesday in some districts. Most districts begin the 2014-15 school year the week of Aug. 11, including two of the largest: Modesto City and Sylvan Union.

That means summer ends long before fall begins for the school-age set – and for parents it means money to shell out, even before they’ve finished paying off those memory-making family vacations.

Talk about a double whammy.

Back-to-school costs go far beyond new clothes and a few folders, pencils and glue: Some parents have gotten notices in the mail with details about checks to send in with their kids for things such as yearbooks, associated student body cards, gym clothes and those school pictures that mark each passing year of a child’s morph into adulthood.

Letters went out early this month to Enochs High School students, for example, alerting families to last week’s orientation and registration days. Included in the information were details on checks to send along with students: $25 for an associated student body card; $20 for gym clothes; $65 for yearbooks (they’ll cost $70 if they aren’t purchased before school starts); and an envelope for student pictures, $20-$50, depending the package parents choose. Some parents could be sending children to pick up their class schedules with checks totaling as much as $160 each.

Becky Fortuna, public information officer at Modesto City Schools, points out that the costs listed above are optional.

“There are no mandatory purchases at any grade level,” she said in an email. “ID cards are provided to students free of charge. Students are not required to purchase PE clothes from the school.”

But the more involved a student is at school, the more the costs.

Students who play sports likely will need a doctor’s clearance, which will rack up a bill for a medical appointment. They’ll also need gear, uniforms and footwear, which, depending on the sport, can cost hundreds of dollars. Some of those costs can be put off until spring, also depending on the sport.

On the supplies side, there are plenty of things to buy – paper, notebooks, folders, pens, pencils, rulers, highlighters and the like. Most area retailers have their back-to-school sections set up, with many sales being offered. Check out ads in The Modesto Bee on Sundays for discounts at a variety of stores.

Calculators can be inexpensive or a pocketbook pain, depending on the types of classes kids are taking. For example, a student might ask parents to invest in a graphing calculator for a calculus class. Those can cost $50 to $150.

And then there are the backpacks. You can spend anywhere from $15 to more than $100, depending on where you shop and what brand your child is looking to sport. Backpacks can be a peer-pressure monitor, and some kids will beg for special brands such as JanSport, Oakley or SwissGear.

There is one bright side to a summertime school start: Major clothing costs don’t have to hit parents right away. Most of the shorts, T-shirts and summer shoes kids have been wearing during their time off still are good to go for the next couple of months in the Valley.

Fall- and winter-wear purchases aren’t necessary for a while; they’re just another cost to look forward to down the road.

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