The Guam Department of Education wants to take some of the back-to-school costs on parents.
At this time of year, schools usually start posting a list of school supplies that students should bring to school. Pens, pencils, type books, paper, folders, markers and cleaning wipes should normally be on the list. Schools have also included reams of photocopying paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer, and even toilet paper.
GDOE hopes to narrow that list down and save parents at least $ 100 per student, or roughly $ 2.8 million.
“We didn’t want schools to send home regular supply lists that ask for pens, toilet paper, all those things. We have told schools not to send these lists home. We wanted to be able to take care of all of that, ”said Joseph Sanchez, assistant superintendent of programs and education.
Last year, GDOE budgeted $ 60 per student for classroom supplies.
“For this school year, we’ve increased it to $ 100 per student,” Sanchez said. The funding that made this possible came from several pots of COVID-19 relief funding, the Education Stabilization Fund, or ESF, ESF II, and the American Rescue Plan.
The effort was coordinated at the school level between administrators and teachers to ensure that supplies would be provided to students.
Teachers submitted the list of needed school supplies to their administrators last year.
“Orders started in late spring in anticipation of summer and the start of the school year and they continue to this day. In fact, schools continue to enter requests for the school supplies they need, ”Sanchez said.
Reduce the pressure on families, teachers
The aim is to reduce the financial pressure on families, according to GDOE.
According to Sanchez, a survey of back-to-school supplies lists from previous years showed parents spent between $ 40 and $ 80 on school supplies. The GDOE estimated the average costs to be around $ 60 per student.
“In theory, that’s something the school system should be doing anyway, and we’ve never really had the chance to do it,” Sanchez said.
Until the pandemic, GDOE received minimal local and federal funding to cover these expenses, but with substantial COVID-19 relief funds, the department now has the funds to cover students and teachers.
$ 1,000 for teachers
The agency is also trying to make sure teachers don’t have to dip into personal finances to purchase supplies for their classrooms. Sanchez said $ 1,000 will be allocated to each GDOE teacher.
“We really wanted to make sure that these stories of teachers having to come out of their pockets… don’t happen this school year,” Sanchez said.
GDOE has also set aside federal funding to cover school supplies for the next two school years.
Parents will need to cover the cost of school backpacks, shoes and uniforms.
GDOE, however, is working to allocate funds to help families struggling to purchase uniforms, which are mandatory this school year.
“We know in terms of the number of students each year the (average) number of students who have problems with uniforms. Based on our data, it’s about 1,000 students, ”Sanchez said.
This year, because many families are struggling, authorities predict that the number will increase to between 3,000 and 5,000 students.
“We absolutely don’t want the uniform to be the reason they don’t come to school. We really try to emphasize that the priority is to come to school. Even if they don’t have uniforms or if they don’t have enough uniforms, just come to school, we will do our best to support them on the uniform policy, ”Sanchez said.
Sanchez said the GDOE plans to fund up to five sets of uniforms per student in need of assistance. The funds would come from three sources, the Education Stabilization Fund, the ESFII and the American Rescue Plan.
The GDOE has reinstated the mandatory uniform policy for the 2021-2022 school year, but Sanchez has made it clear that the department will be flexible and accommodating when students return to school in August.
There are other options available for parents who need help obtaining uniforms. At the school level, vouchers are provided by suppliers through parent-teacher organizations and consolidated grants. Parents can contact their children’s schools for these vouchers.
Schools also have a limited uniform bank that parents can draw on. These uniforms were donated. Some are new and some are used. They are available from the Student Aid Office.