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Supply and demand

Parents, kids hit stores in search of back-to-school needs

Parents, kids hit stores in search of back-to-school needs

August 12, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Josh Green of Halfway crossed items off his sixth-grade supply list from Springfield Middle School as he tossed binders, notebook paper and other supplies into his shopping cart at Target in Hagerstown.

Josh, his older sister and mother in early August joined other back-to-school shoppers scouring the aisles at retail stores throughout the Tri-State area for supplies ranging from nine-cent folders to $99 calculators.

School supplies now fill seasonal aisles at stores such as Staples, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target in Washington County, Berkeley County, W.Va., and Chambersburg, Pa.

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And an increasing number of back-to-school shoppers will crowd those aisles as the school supply shopping season "starts exploding" this month, said James Hornsby, manager at Wal-Mart Supercenter in Hagerstown.

Schools in Chambersburg and Washington and Berkeley counties open to students on Aug. 26.

All students in the Tri-State area except elementary and middle school students in the Chambersburg Area School District must provide their own school supplies.

In Chambersburg, the school system furnishes all supplies for students in kindergarten through grade eight, said Jim Taylor, assistant superintendent for elementary services.

In Washington and Berkeley counties, students must provide materials specified by teachers on supply lists, school officials said.

Washington County schools use different methods to inform students about needed supplies, including posting lists on Web pages, taping lists to school doors, mailing lists with report cards and faxing lists to area retail stores, said Karen Brown, secretary to the executive director of early childhood and elementary education at the county Board of Education.

Elementary and middle schools in Berkeley County (W.Va.) also provide different lists for every grade level, said Mary Jo Brown, spokeswoman for Berkeley County schools.

The school system's Instructional Resource Center gives elementary and middle school supply lists to area retail stores such as Wal-Mart, Kmart, OfficeMax, Rockwell's Office Supply and Staples Office Superstore in Charles Town, W.Va., Brown said.

High schools in all three states wait until the start of the school year to request supplies because materials vary greatly with each teacher, school officials said.

Elementary and middle school supplies vary by grade level.

Sharpsburg Elementary School second-grade student Kayla Grimm and her mother, Bobbi, recently combed the school supply section of Kmart in Hagerstown for fundamental supplies such as pencils, folders and spiral notebooks.

"We're still doing the basics," Bobbi Grimm said.

Kayla's scouted out a Sponge Bob backpack in which to stow her supplies, while older students bypassed racks of packs adorned with popular cartoon and movie characters in favor of the plainer bags stuffed onto shelves and hanging from the ceiling.

Stores start stocking mass quantities of back-to-school supplies in June, and aggressively advertising supplies in late July, managers said.

"Back to school is a very competitive time," Hornsby said. "We devote a big chunk of our store to it."

Folders, compasses, protractors, paper and hundreds of other school supplies flank a main entrance and line every seasonal aisle at Hagerstown's Wal-Mart Supercenter.

Robin Gillenwater of Hagerstown said the prices were right at Wal-Mart, where she and her daughter, Courtney, filled their cart with sparkly pencils, three-prong folders and other supplies in preparation for Courtney's fourth-grade year at Maugansville Elementary School.

The nine-year-old student loves shopping for school supplies, said her mother, who doesn't mind the task so much herself since Courtney's older sibling graduated from high school last year.

"This is easy," Robin Gillenwater said.

The Wal-Mart Supercenter's garden center now doubles as a college dorm supply area - an idea that Hornsby hatched in Hagerstown this year after noting its success at another Wal-Mart he managed, he said.

The small refrigerators, plastic dishware, storage crates and other dorm room must-haves are selling well, Hornsby said.

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