Every year, “Stuff the School Bus,” a project co-led by United Way of Columbia County and Turning Point Community Services, provides backpacks and school supplies for students in need in Clatskanie.
This year, the project is facing some difficulties.
Namely, the requirements for school supplies are missing from the Clatskanie Elementary School supply lists, and instead have been replaced by supply fees, ranging from $15 to $20. An additional problem is that the sixth-grade supply list has a $20 supply fee, as well as requiring some supplies.
Kelly Miller, Director of Turning Point, is feeling frustrated.
“My biggest concern is that the school is requiring a fee only, rather than having students come into school with supplies of their own. More students are going to be left out this way,” Miller said.
The campaign, often shortened to “Stuff the Bus,” runs from July 16 to August 19, according to Miller, although the official flyer lists August 16 as the ending date. (The reason being is that Turning Point will be closed that Friday, so Miller extended the campaign to August 19.)
Kathye Beck, Columbia County United Way Executive Director, said that United Way has been doing the campaign for the past 15 years. “We buy backpacks for every school district, but if we don’t have money, we simply ask people to donate whatever they can,” she said.
This year, Miller has had close to 50 applications within the first week. Last year, Miller said she filled more than 200 backpacks between all the grades, made possible through community donations. She also said the campaign provides school supplies for some homeschooled families. Miller also helped needy families pay for their students’ Associated Student Body cards among all grades, which totaled $815.
Even though the project has been popular this year, Miller said she is hearing a lot of confusion from parents.
“I’ve had parents come to me when the school is requiring fees rather than supplies, and they feel like they can’t come here for a backpack,” Miller said. “Between me and the schools, I would like for us all to be on the same page, instead of the parents being stuck in the middle and thinking ‘Which one do I choose? Which one is correct?’”
Both Clatskanie School District Superintendent Cathy Hurowitz and Clatskanie Elementary School Principal Tiffany O’Donnell said they did not know why the lists did not lay out specific school supplies. However, Hurowitz expanded on the reason for including more supplies for the sixth-grade students, saying that the students in that grade, in preparing for going to Clatskanie Middle/High School, would be taking more notes, and would need dividers for their binders in preparation for eventually going to different classes.
Miller said that last year was a very successful campaign.
“We had so much left over that I was able to run similar campaigns at Open House for the schools,” Miller said. “I had set up an area to where I had tables full of leftover supplies for any student that didn’t know about us or wasn’t able to make it in, where they could pick up what they needed to fill their school needs for the year.”
The lack of specific supplies is not going to prevent “Stuff the Bus” from providing supplies to students this year, Miller said.
“We will do our best to supply their needs for them,” Miller said. Students can come into Turning Point to get their school supplies until August 19.
For those interested in donating to “Stuff the Bus,” there are numerous donation sites, including Umpqua Bank, Wauna Federal Credit Union, and Turning Point.
Update:The story has been edited to clarify that school supplies were donated by community members. The story has also been updated to state that Stuff the Bus provided ASB cards for all students grades 1-12 at a cost of $815, where previously only the figure for Clatskanie Middle/High School had been provided. The Chief regrets the error.