Showing off new gear on the first day of school can be exciting for some, but intimidating for those whose families can’t afford the newest backpacks or trendiest binders.
That’s why the Friday Harbor Elementary School staff are organizing a fundraiser to buy identical supplies for every student in the 2018-19 school year, which begins Thursday, Aug. 30.
“We’re hoping to start students at an equal start … in the classroom, with everyone having what they need and there not being a comparison of items that are being brought in, whether it’s the glittery spiral notebook versus the plain spiral notebook,” said Susan Stehn, the school’s office manager.
Families of each of the 307 enrolled students have been asked to contribute $32, per pupil, so school staff can buy all of the needed supplies – like glue sticks, markers and notebooks – through a vendor they use to buy staff supplies. The purchases will be cheaper, said Stehn, than if families bought supplies at retail stores, either on the island or off. Stehn said she has spent up to $100 on school supplies for back-to-school supplies for each of her own children, annually. The bulk purchase will also ensure quality-made items are purchased, she added.
Anyone from the community, and not just those known to elementary school students, can make donations at the school’s office. Money, not used to purchase supplies by the first day of school, will go toward ongoing needs throughout the year, as well as the following school year for this inaugural program. Stehn said the school staff accepts supplies anytime as well.
Donations can also be made at Islanders Bank in Friday Harbor through Thursday, Sept. 7, during staff’s ninth annual Gear Up for the Schools campaign, also known as “Stuff the Bus.” The campaign benefits students at both the elementary school as well as any public school in the district, and donations can include money or school supplies.
“We’re a proud sponsor of our schools, especially our students,” said Michele Morton, with the bank. “[This fundraiser is] near and dear to my heart as a mom of two in the school district.”
The purchased supplies will be passed out on the elementary school’s first day, which means there won’t be any empty-handed students starting the year off on the wrong foot.
“Nobody is coming in without their supplies and feeling the pressure of that in the classroom,” said Stehn.
Annual public school fundraisers
Since 1993, the San Juan Public Schools Foundation has raised funds for the island’s public schools. Contributed funds go toward requests, like textbooks and art materials, from San Juan Island School District teachers and staff.
“Personally, I can’t think of anything more important than our children,” said board member Karen Meenan. “We want to make sure they are well educated and have wonderful opportunities.”
San Juan School District Business Directory: Each year, the foundation assembles a directory that lists the students’ contact information. Local businesses purchase ads in the directory, which covers the small amount to publish the booklet, with the majority of the funds going toward the foundation. The directory will be available around October. To purchase an ad, contact Rich Meenan at 360-378-8282.
Phone-A-Thon: Every October, foundation volunteers call community members to request district donations. Contributions have ranged from $5 to $100,000, and Karen Meenan said the event contributes tens of thousands of dollars to the district schools every year.
Knowledge Bowl: Each winter, the foundation hosts a trivia game called the Knowledge Bowl, where local service organizations compete against students. Organizations pay a $500 entry fee, which, along with ticket sales, goes toward the foundation.
Rainy-day fund: Since the foundation starts with a low balance at the start of each school year, volunteers are looking to create a fund to use during leaner times. Donations can be sent anytime to the San Juan Public Schools Foundation, at PO Box 1452, Friday Harbor, WA 98250.