Originally published in US News - August 10, 2021
Be prepared for anything this school year.
The return to in-person classes this school year may be a significant adjustment for students who have been engaged in primarily virtual learning during the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, some districts may be weighing hybrid or entirely virtual learning options as coronavirus cases again rise, leading to another uncertain school year. To ease your child's transition back to school, come prepared with this list of seven supplies and tools for the 2021-2022 school year. And in addition to this list of physical supplies, James Rhyu, CEO of Stride, a learning solutions company, says, "For sure, it’s a deeply challenging and unsettling time, but the most important school supplies they need in abundance are fortitude and patience – both of which are understandably running thin."
Check school policies on masks.
Some schools will require students to bring and wear masks, while others may only require masks in certain situations or for certain grade levels. Families will need to closely monitor school policies on COVID-19 safety measures, says Trenton Goble, vice president of K-12 strategy at Instructure, the makers of Canvas Learning Management System. "It’s going to be very important to pay attention to the information coming from your child’s school regarding safety protocols," he wrote in an email. "With new strains of the virus emerging, the school year is certain to be unpredictable. This could lead to interruptions during the school year requiring families to remain open and flexible to change."
Pack hand sanitizer and cleaning products.
In addition to masks, parents should plan to provide students with hand sanitizer and other classroom cleaning products this year. Many classroom-provided supply lists will include items each student should bring as well as a donation request for shared items such as tissues. Consider donating requested items, which may this year include large bottles of hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes, depending on each teacher's needs.
Check clothing and backpack sizes.
While schools' pandemic responses vary across districts and states, some students will be returning to in-person classrooms for the first time this fall in more than a year. As such, it may be time to update school clothes and size-specific supplies, such as backpacks and lunch boxes. Be prepared before the first day of school with well-fitting supplies and age-appropriate styles.
Get organized with a planner.
Planners for both parents and students are essential – whether it's a Google Calendar or a paper planner, having a structured place to write down key dates and deadlines can help bring some routine back to students' and parents' lives. "Every child is going to handle the transition back to school a little differently, and it’s important to listen for concerns that you can address prior to school starting," Goble says. "Parents can also help students begin to transition to a school routine prior to the school year beginning. Transitioning over a few weeks to get a sleep pattern that aligns with the school day will make the transition less stressful."
Have the right technology and Wi-Fi.
In a year where anything can happen, being prepared for a transition back to virtual or hybrid schooling may pay off in the end. This includes having the right computer, Wi-Fi and workspace to help students learn and study from home. "Beyond the traditional backpack, pencils, pens, and crayons, I think we have entered an era where technology will be an essential part of the back to school necessities," Goble says. "Make sure to check with your local school to determine what technology will be supplied or made available through your school." This step might also include contacting your school district about support getting Wi-Fi at home if you don't have it already.
Avoid overpaying for traditional school supplies.
Returning to classrooms means returning to supplies like crayons, markers, glue sticks and beyond. Some families may wish to buy extra supplies to avoid sharing and potentially spreading germs with other students, but others may seek out free or lightly used supplies through neighbors and local community groups to save money.
Save receipts on supplies used for in-person classes.
In a school year as unpredictable as this one, some parents are understandably hesitant to make a significant investment in school supplies to be used in a physical classroom. Some families are taking extra steps to save receipts in case in-person schooling has to be suspended due to the coronavirus, but experts say beyond this, families will simply need to remain flexible. To parents looking for answers about what to expect this year, Rhyu says this: "The most important piece of advice I would give is – stay informed. I would also say it’s important to follow guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and other federal, state, and local authorities."
To learn more about Stride K12 schools, visit stridelearning.com