Affording adequate school supplies can be a challenge for a number of families of school-age children in Oakdale.
Not having the basics on hand to be successful in school can also result in problems with fitting in and attendance. The Oakdale Joint Unified School District schools have found ways to help to supply these basics to students who need them with support from the community and those supplies need to be replenished.
Larry Mendonca, OJUSD Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Services and Facilities, reported that each site in the district receives donations and contributions for backpacks and school supplies for less fortunate students. A few supplies are also received through the Stanislaus County Office of Education’s (SCOE) backpack campaign but that doesn’t meet all the needs.
Dana Hernandez, Oakdale High School counseling office secretary and Veronica’s Care Closet coordinator on campus, said that they give out 25 to 30 backpacks at the beginning of the school year and then a few more throughout the year as new students transfer in.
“Always backpacks. We go through backpacks because they’re expensive,” Hernandez said, acknowledging the challenge it is for some families to purchase them.
She added that it can cost approximately $40 for a backpack and supplies to get started – and that’s when they’re obtained on sale. Supplies need to be replenished throughout the school year as well.
Other school supply needs for the OHS Care Closet are binders, paper, a lot of notebooks because many classes require them, index cards, which are heavily used, as well as pencils, pens, erasers, scissors, Post-Its, White Out, basic calculators, color pencils, highlighters, a few paper folders, a few rulers, and hand-held pencil sharpeners. Along with new backpacks, Hernandez said that they’ll also accept gently-used backpacks.
Hernandez said that OHS-approved PE clothes are also needed. All freshmen have to take PE and there is a two-year PE requirement for high school. Hernandez said that people can donate money to the Care Closet for PE clothes and then she purchases the sizes needed. A PE set, of shorts and a shirt, is $20. Sweatshirts are $25 and sweatpants are $20.
Further, Hernandez said that the Care Closet also needs non-perishable food supplies. She added that gift cards in $10 increments for local grocery stores, especially discount grocery stores, are helpful so they can be used to purchase a pound of hamburger, milk, and other basics.
“I may have Hamburger Helper in the Care Closet but they need hamburger,” Hernandez said. “A lot of the kids are on reduced or free lunch but they still need dinner.”
At Oakdale Junior High School, counselor Candi Crawford reported that they are currently holding a backpack and school supply drive. Letters about the drive went out in registration packets to inform families who can donate and to inform families who need the assistance.
She said that along with school supplies, things such as tennis shoes, socks, and sweatshirts are also helpful. She noted that mini staplers and colored pencils are high demand items at the junior high. Additionally, if people want to donate gift cards to local businesses where school supplies can be purchased, then the counselors can purchase items as needed for students.
Crawford reported that they gave out about 25 backpacks with supplies last year and they are expecting to have a need for at least that many or more this year.
She said that the counselors want students and their families to know that they offer many services and that they can contact the counselors for whatever they need.
“We just try to help them with whatever they need,” Crawford said.
She added that there is information posted on the outside of the main OJHS building, facing the classrooms, called the “Counselors Corner” just outside the principal’s office.
The junior high also offers supplies to needy students throughout the year through its KIND (Kids In NeeD) program coordinated by teachers Micki Dias and Lori Vargas. People who would like to donate can bring backpacks, supplies, and/or gift cards to the school office or they can also write a check to OJHS PTC KIND program.
The elementary schools are also accepting supply donations at their campuses.
Fair Oaks Elementary School Principal Stacey Aprile said that they currently have enough backpacks but have other needs.
“Our school can always use school supplies, such as binder paper, notebooks, pencils, pens, and colored pencils – and we will accept them any time,” she said.
Cloverland Elementary School Principal Larry Bonds said that his site prefers to collect donations after school begins.
“We are fine on backpacks and felt pens, but (we) do need binders, pencils and Kleenex,” he said.
Magnolia Elementary School Secretary Nickie McConnell reported that generally equal numbers of boys and girls have needs for supplies.
“Backpacks are always very nice to give to our students in need,” she said. “I would say items that would be more useful would be pencil boxes, colored pencils, notebooks, folders.”
She added that the school site purchases crayons, pencils, and glue sticks, which are basic needs.
“We always appreciate any extra donations of these items but we do not provide color pencils and things of that nature to the students,” McConnell added. “We also provide one Magnolia folder for them to keep their papers.”
SCOE also hosts the “Operation Backpack” backpack drive on behalf of homeless students throughout Stanislaus County going now through Aug. 2 at SCOE, 1100 H St., Modesto.
According to SCOE, the homeless student population has grown over the past few years and estimates indicate that more than 3,000 homeless school-age children currently live and attend public schools in Stanislaus County. It defines homeless students as those who may live in cars, shelters, motels, on the street, or in short-term living arrangements with family or friends.