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Rural Arkansas school district providing all school supplies for students

By using strategic planning and federal funding, the small school districts in southern Sebastian County are taking on the cost of supplies.

CHARLESTON, Ark. — Some local teachers and administrators are taking a massive burden off parents.

By using strategic planning and federal funding, the small school districts in southern Sebastian County are taking on the cost of supplies for the 2022-2023 school year.

"Typically we would provide the parents, in the summer time, with a school supply list," said Charleston School District Superintendent Melissa Moore. "It would have everything on it from glue, scissors, crayons, binders, composition notebooks."

Charleston School District along with Lavaca and County Line are some of the rural schools purchasing school supplies for every student so parents don't have to.

"We do allow students to provide their own backpack and water bottle. However, if parents would like the school to provide that as well they can notify the school counselor and we'll provide that as well," Moore said.

Parents know school supplies can be costly. So, how are local school districts footing the bill for hundreds of students at a time?

School districts across the United States received $122 billion combined through the American Rescue Plan.

"We received, as all the schools did, received money from the pandemic and we have been able to utilize that money," Moore said.

Parents with multiple kids of school age know the savings could mean hundreds. The plan that Charleston School District and others have put in place seems to make it easier for teachers as well. Racheal Fisher, the Charleston principal and a teacher, said the plan will help with classroom flow.

"You can just jump into learning, the building relationships with kids," she said. "You don't have to worry about that. You have your things prepared, labeled, ready to go. Everybody has the same thing. It just makes it easier."

According to Arkansas Advocates for Children, 67% of students in Sebastian County school districts are eligible for free or reduced lunches. It gives you an idea of how many families can see this as a huge help.

As far as how long it could last, it's dependent on how long federal dollars will continue to stretch. For school districts like Charleston, they may try to keep the program around. 

 "It is expensive, and we will have to look for another fund source when that money is gone," Moore said.

The Charleston School District has 853 students in grades K through 12. The total cost budgeted for school supplies for the 2022-23 school year is $12,500.

If you are wondering if your school district will do this, the decision will have to be made through your district administration and school board.

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