One clipboard. One computer head set with a narrow jack. Three highlighters of different colors.

So much for showing up to school with a No. 2 pencil, notebook paper, and a three-ring binder.

While those items are still a must have for school children, for District 97 students, their school supply list has gotten a lot longer over the years. That leaves parents footing the bill and scrambling to fill the increasingly specific requirements.

Years back the district provided the essentials – pencils, crayons, scissors and other such items. Each building covered those costs in their budgets. Some instructors also paid out of pocket for certain items.

Donna LoCoco has taught in Dist. 97 for more than 30 years, currently at Irving School. She remembers supply budgets being slashed as education moved into the computer age. Supply lists got lengthier, she noted, as students needed more items for learning. The district eventually asked parents to buy the majority of their kids’ supplies. LoCoco, a second grade teacher, dusted off a couple of old supply lists she’s kept from years back and shared them with Wednesday Journal.

Every school currently has a supply list for each grade level – those lists can be found on the various schools’ main page at www.op97.org, the district’s Web site. Some grade levels list as many as 20 items; some had more than that. LoCoco’s old list had about a dozen items, if that many. Irving’s current school-wide supply list has more than 100 items as do some other schools. The essentials haven’t changed, but LoCoco noted a few changes. Water bottles, for instance, are among the requirements on a lot of current lists.

“We never had water bottles when I was going to school. It was ‘there’s the water fountain, drink from there,'” she said with a laugh. “It wasn’t even a part of the language.”

Another change she noticed on today’s lists is kids using glue sticks; back then, her students used good old Elmer’s Glue. There were no colored pencils or markers on any of her lists, which she keeps in a file in her classroom. The markers, she recalled, were a particular no-no as teachers feared the kids would scribble on desks, themselves or other kids. Two requirements haven’t changed over the years, said LoCoco – gyms shoes for gym class and an old shirt or smock for art lessons.

Dist. 97 students returned to school last week and regardless of what grade they’re in, they came armed with supplies. Today’s supply lists are compiled by the PTO, taken from suggestions by teachers of what they need in their classrooms for the upcoming year. LoCoco said there were no required school lists in the district years ago, and that the teachers usually paid out of pocket for some items.

New technology has also spurred changes in supply lists over the years, she noted. Teachers now ask parents to provide, for instance, headsets for classroom computer lessons – no such item was needed when LoCoco started teaching in 1973. Parents were never asked to buy chalk so their kids could write on the blackboard. But today, parents are asked to provide dry eraser makers to use on whiteboards.

LoCoco noticed on Irving’s current list a requirement for backpacks, but specifying that they have no wheels. “It was not in the vocabulary,” she said of years past. “I carried my books to school.”

Some teachers today, though, still provide certain items to some kids, she said.

“We know that not all kids can bring certain items to school. We don’t want anyone to feel embarrassed because they don’t have certain things. So, some teachers still pay out of pocket so everyone feels equal.”

In the last two years, and especially since the H1N1 virus outbreak from the spring, every district supply list requires hand-wipes and a sanitizer bottle. LoCoco added that the wipes and sanitizers are not only for germs but to protect kids with allergies to peanuts or other foods.

LoCoco joked about what might be on future supply lists as times change.

“Now they’re saying that the plastic in water bottles is no good for you. I don’t know, maybe it’ll have, ‘one titanium water bottle’ listed or something.”

CONTACT: tdean@wjinc.com

Check off one

A sampling of supplies from schools in District 97:

  • Folders with inside pockets
  • Boxes of Kleenex
  • Packs of red and blue erasable pens
  • One calculator (T1-30XIIS model)
  • Large poster boards
  • Non-flexible ruler (standard or metric)
  • No Trapper Keepers

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