Back to school comes with costs and concerns

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Time to get ready for a life of schedules, extra-curricular activities, music lessons, fall sports and homework. After eight weeks of lazy summer days enjoying relaxed schedules that include late nights and late mornings the transition to the school schedule in my house is always a welcome struggle. The price of back to school however is not always as warmly received.

The attack plan for back to school includes getting all the necessary accoutrement. These items don’t come cheap. The cost of back to school starts prior to the end of the school year as busing must be registered and paid. This year the St. Albert public board charges $100 to $230 per student for transportation fees and the Catholic system ranges from $195 to $280. For transportation to and from school the fees offer value over many alternatives, but really just represent that start of out-of-pocket expenses to put a child in public school.

Then there is the back to school supplies list. When I was in school, supplies were supplied. They were a component of the school fees that were paid each year and in return I used to receive scribblers and pencils that were distributed by the teachers. My annual pilgrimage to the local supply store aligns with a recent BMO Bank of Montreal study reports that Canadian families expect to spend on average $362 for back to school goods this September. This number is up from last year by about 13 per cent. Since my kids have been in school we have prepared for their school years armed with a full list of required supplies, including many identified not only by brand but by model numbers. The supplies list even includes a requisite box of Kleenex for each student to hand in at the beginning of the year to ensure that the arsenal is fully stocked prior to cold and flu season.

The final preparatory shopping trip for back to school is the clothes trip. When I was a kid it was my favourite time of the year. I would go shopping with my mom and get a haul of new fall and winter clothes, most of which couldn’t be worn until the season changed and the temperature dropped. Back to school for my family also includes the new clothes ritual so that all the basics are covered and the summer growth spurt has been corrected with longer jeans and new shoes. Filling the closet with necessary clothing for the school year does not come with a small price tag and in today’s society where brand names and media are a huge part of how individuals, especially students, define themselves the budget can sometimes be limitless.

Once school begins next week there will be the last payment for a year of public education – school fees. These are the fees levied by the school administration for books and special materials, special programs or services, etc. School fees can be as little as $20 to $750. These school fees including items such lunch room fees, agendas, fieldtrip costs etc. Each school administration has the ability to set these fees.

Back to school is a time where a structured day and planned activities are welcomed as we say good bye to summer but the cost to transition to another school year may well have us all longing for summer to last a little longer.

Tanya Doran is an enthusiastic St. Albert resident.

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