Supply struggle: Schools asking for community donations

Stocking up for school: Tax-free weekend begins

Florida's back to school tax-free holiday runs Friday through Monday.

Most clothing, shoes and accessories under $60 are tax exempt. You can also save big on school supplies, whether you need them or not.

The halls of Warrington Elementary are calm and quiet now, but come next week, hundreds of students will swarm the building, excited to start the first day of school. Yet, not all of those children will be prepared for the school year.

Many families across northwest Florida struggle to buy school supplies for their children. Third-grade teacher Megan Malko has seen it firsthand.

"I had a student last year whose grandma wrote me a note saying sorry she doesn't have a backpack," said Megan.

Thanks to numerous donations, Megan was able to help.

"It was almost like she got to go shopping and pick out her own backpack from the store," said Megan. "Seeing her carry that backpack every day put a smile on my face and I know it made her feel like she was ready."

Situations like this are not uncommon across Escambia County. Warrington Elementary Principal Dr. Dave Schmittou says 90 percent of his students live below the poverty line. Buying school supplies is often the last thing these families are thinking about.

"For some families, it's the difference between food on the table or not," said Dr. Schimittou.

Dr. Schmittou says that's where you come in. If you've got a little extra cash to spend during the back to school tax-free weekend, consider buying some supplies to donate.

"Six percent off on anything is a big deal," said Dr. Schmittou. "So, if you go out and you save six percent, go out and spend an extra six percent and bring that stuff here."

Friday through Sunday most school supplies $15 or less won't be taxed. That includes pencils, pens, markers, notebooks and construction paper - all of which teachers need a lot of.

"The more supplies we have and the more things we can use, the easier and more fun we can make learning," said Megan.

This year, Megan has spent more than $300 of her own money buying supplies for her students. Before the year is over, she'll likely spend another $300.

But she says it's worth it.

"As a teacher, you want to do everything you can to help these kids become successful," said Megan. "Even if that means dipping into your own pocket, you do what you have to do."

Aside from the basics, Megan says teachers are always in need of hand sanitizer, sanitizing wipes and dry erase markers. If you would like to help, any school in northwest Florida would be more than happy to accept your donation.

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