Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images Photo by: BSIP/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The sweet days of summer vacation always whip by far too fast. If you have a new or returning student in your household, you probably know that school is just around the corner. (Have you been counting the days? We don’t blame you!)

Here are a few things you need to know before sending your kids back to the classroom.

Back to School Dates

Classes are starting up very soon—some in a matter of days, in fact.  

refugee schools
Samuel Lavi, left, a Congolese native who is a teaching assistant and family engagement liaison, greets first grader Kediga Ahmed as she arrives at the Valencia Newcomer School attend class Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Phoenix. Children from around the world are learning the English skills and American classroom customs they need to succeed at so-called newcomer schools. Valencia Newcomer School in Phoenix is among a handful of such public schools in the United States dedicated exclusively to helping some of the thousands of children who arrive in the country annually. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Generally speaking, classes in most school districts begin the first or second week of August, with your kiddo’s first break happening Labor Day weekend.

The Arizona Republic has an extensive list of when every school district in Maricopa County restarts classes.

The Ultimate School Supply List

Once again, you need to buy them.

School supply lists vary across districts, and even across schools in the same district, but here’s a general look at what students will need by grade level. You can check out your school’s website or social media pages for more specifics, too.

Kindergarten

Backpack (large enough to fit folders)

2 boxes of crayons 

1 box of washable markers 

1 bottle of Elmer’s glue 

4 glue sticks 

No. 2 pencils 

Elementary School 

Backpack (large enough to fit multiple folders)

No. 2 pencils (2-pack)

2 packs of pens (black or blue ink)

Pencil sharpener

Lunchbag (if bringing lunch from home)

Pencil box or pouch 

12-inch ruler

1 Elmer’s glue

4 glue sticks 

Loose leaf paper

3 Spiral bound notebooks 

1-2 inch, 3 ring binder 

Watercolor paint 

3 folders (different colors)

Book covers or BookSox

Markers 

Crayons

Middle School 

Backpack (large enough to fit multiple folders)

No. 2 pencils (2-pack)

Erasers 

2 packs of pens (black or blue ink)

Pencil sharpener

4 Highlighters 

Lunchbag (if bringing lunch from home)

Pencil box or pouch 

Clear tape 

Scissors 

Calculator 

12-inch ruler

1 Elmer’s glue

4 glue sticks 

Loose leaf paper

5 one subject notebooks 

5 3-ring binders

3-hole punch (to fit inside binder)

Tab dividers 

3 hole reinforcements

3 folders (different colors)

Book covers or BookSox

Weekly planner 

Locker accessories

High School 

Backpack (Full-sized)

No. 2 pencils (2-pack)

Erasers 

3 packs of pens (black, blue, and red ink)

Pencil sharpener

4 Highlighters 

Lunchbag (if bringing lunch from home)

Pencil box or pouch 

Clear tape 

Scissors 

TI Calculator 

12-inch ruler

1 Elmer’s glue

4 glue sticks 

Loose leaf paper

Sticky Notes 

Sticky Flags 

5 one subject notebooks 

5 3-ring binders

3-hole punch (to fit inside binder)

Tab dividers 

3 hole reinforcements

3 folders (different colors)

Book covers or BookSox

USB drive

Weekly planner 

Locker accessories

Free School Supply Resources

There are definitely resources to help you get the school supplies your kid needs, too. 

At the state level, Arizona families can receive an allowance of up to $82.50 per year to go toward paying for school supplies. That money can also be used to cover course fees and other educational supplies. 

At the local level, residents can reach out to many of the community service groups located in the state. 

Assistance League of Maricopa County and Phoenix

The Assistance League of Maricopa County and Phoenix give back through a program called Operation School Bell. They host many giveaway events throughout the year, including back to school season and Christmas. 

They offer students free clothes, shoes, notebooks, pencils, backpacks, and other necessities. 

Military Back to School Brigade

Students of military members or veterans are eligible for this giveaway. They provide backpacks to fill up with school supplies, and their event in Glendale is all set for July 30th. 

Click here for the details. 

Tempe Youth Resource Center (THREADZ)

The Tempe Teen Resource Centers, also known as Threadz, provide clothing, school supplies, shoes, and hygiene items to teenagers in the Tempe area. They currently have two locations for teens to pick up clothing and other materials weekly and a third location coming this fall.

The effort provides students with needed materials with a boutique feel. Click here to find out more and to donate. 

Phoenix Salvation Army Backpack SOS

The local Salvation Army will provide backpacks full of supplies to local students in need. The backpacks contain most of what kindergarten through middle schoolers will need to start off the school year. For access, contact the Phoenix Salvation Army

Where to Donate Supplies

Teachers are still in sorely need of your supply donations, too.

virus outbreak arizona schools
ka Washington, special education staff member at Desert Heights Preparatory Academy, arranges her desk in her classroom Monday, June 1, 2020, in Phoenix, returning to her classroom for only the second time since the coronavirus outbreak closed schools. Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman released guidelines on Monday for reopening the state’s K-12 schools in August. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

After all, we’re living in a time of historic inflation. Some of the supplies all teachers appreciate include:

Tissues

Hand sanitizer 

No. 2 Pencils 

Pens (black or blue ink)

Dry Erase markers 

There are also multiple organizations that donate school supplies directly to teachers– here are a few of them and how you can donate too. 

Treasures for Teachers

Treasures for Teachers began back in 2004. The group provides free and low cost school supplies to teachers. There are three ways for teachers to get those school supplies; by visiting their facility in Tempe, ordering from the T4T online store or through T4T on Wheels which delivers school supplies. 

So, how can you get involved? People looking to give back can donate money, their time, or new and gently used school supplies, too. 

To learn more and contact Treasures for Teachers click here

Donors Choose

Donors Choose is also a good option to get school supplies directly to teachers. Through their website you can donate money and school supplies directly to teachers who have created lists of what their classrooms need. 

Just search for specific teachers, schools or even topics and you’ll find a rundown of what local classrooms need. 

Four Peaks for Teachers

What started as a good cause in an unlikely place– a bar in Tempe– has now grown to a multi state effort to supply teachers with the materials they need to teach the next generation. 

In the summer of 2011 the owners and loyal customers of Four Peaks brewery rallied together to gather school supplies. The brewery donates tens of thousands of school supply kits to teachers and even offers cash grants to buy additional supplies– in 2021 Four Peaks was able to give out cash grants to 11 teachers. 

Today the charity has an impact outside of Arizona in states like New Mexico, Utah and parts of Texas. 
How can you help? You can donate money to Four Peaks Charities– it’s now a 501 (c) (3). You can also donate supplies at their 8th Street Pub in Tempe or even just buy a beer– a portion of every beer goes towards Four Peaks for Teachers to fund the supplies in the kits.

School Lunch

School meals are no longer universally free.

It’s back to packing lunch for picky eaters or scrounging between the couch cushions for extra change. The universal free lunch program that was introduced at the start of the pandemic back in March 2020 for all students in the US is no longer in effect

Free and reduced breakfast and lunch will only be given to students who meet income eligibility requirements. Arizona schools follow the national guidelines for poverty to determine eligibility. 

To see if you qualify, click here

Health and Safety Protocol

COVID is still very much a thing, and proper safety measures can go a long way.

The 2022-23 school year will be the second, full academic year after the height of the pandemic. Students can expect to not have to wear masks in their public schools according to their district guidelines. 

There still will be efforts to track the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona schools. The state health department is recommending schools implement multilayered prevention strategies including use of masks as needed and physical distancing. 

In Maricopa County for instance, school nurses, administrators and childcare providers will be encouraged to use the county’s online COVID reporting tool to report cases of the virus and exposures. 

Additionally the state health department says, “staff, teachers and students 5 years of age and older can further protect themselves and others through vaccination.”

If your kid has been exposed to COVID but shows no symptoms and tests negative, you can still send them to school as long as they wear a face mask.

Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, the medical director for disease control at Maricopa County Health Department, shared some guidance for families with 3TV/CBS 5: “If somebody in your household had COVID, because that’s where we see transmission the most often, those students need to be wearing a mask for 10 days following their last exposure.”

Of course, if your child tests positive for COVID, they should stay home for five days per CDC guidelines. After that, they can return to school but should probably still wear a mask for the next five days.

Teacher Shortage

Arizona teachers, feeling overworked and underappreciated, are leaving the industry. 

The nationwide teacher shortage has hit Arizona in a big way. According to reporting by Fox10, there are hundreds of vacancies across the state just as students begin returning to the classroom.

“Unfortunately we do continue to have a dire, severe teacher shortage across the state in Arizona,” said Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman. “It’s very frustrating for us to see this especially knowing that we do have a sufficient number of people who do have their teaching certificates in Arizona however we do have a very difficult time in retaining the teachers in our schools. Arizona does continue to rank the lowest average teacher pay in the country.”

In an effort to help address the shortage, the requirements for Arizona educators have changed under new legislation championed by Gov. Doug Ducey: Some teachers in certain districts can begin working in the classroom before completing their college degrees. 

Under the new law, undergraduate students may begin a “classroom-based preparation program” before graduating. However, students without a bachelor’s degree or an emergency teaching or substitute certificate must be supervised by a certified teacher and cannot be the teacher on record for the classroom.

Additionally, only three public school districts in the state have a classroom-based preparation program that the new law applies to — Vail Unified School District, Washington Elementary School District, and Lake Havasu Unified School District— and there’s no indication that the districts will drop the bachelor’s degree requirement. The three districts were not available for comment on the law at the time of publication.

While this law will not immediately help fill the nearly 2,000 classrooms without an official teacher on record, it can help students expedite their certification process by allowing them to get required training while earning their bachelor’s degree.
It’s a move that has been met with mixed reactions.

“You have to have some experience. It’s going to allow people to do on the job training, and that’s where it’s scary,” said Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Educators Association.

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