Back to school deals for UCS!

The days are getting shorter, nights a little cooler, and the chirps of local cicadas are gaining in intensity – and the Utica Community Schools are back in session. No matter if you already secured all your back-to school supplies, you saw you missed a few things from the updated lists teachers distributed, or you waited for the first week to pass, it’s still a great time to start gathering any missing supplies or just keep stocking up for the whole year. Back-to-school shopping can be overwhelming, so we’ve compiled a nifty general list of the local deals with handy links for price comparison as the weeks go on and prices fluctuate. 

BACKPACKS

This is one area it’s worth it in the long run to spend a little more for comfort and durability. According to recommendations from The National Safety Council, a child’s backpack should not be wider than their torso or hang more than four inches below their waist. It should also have plenty of shoulder and back pads with adjustable straps to help with weight distribution and keep the bag’s contents from uncomfortable pokes.

As far as elementary students go, a favorite print or character usually makes their decision. Satisfy their eye for design while providing them comfort quality with these packs from L.L. Bean. There are packs for a range of sizes and costs, as well as large reflective strips for added safety, and some that have a built-in rolling feature. For middle and high school students, L.L. Bean’s Super Deluxe Book Pack is top-tier. It boasts a solid four-and-a-half star average review from parents whose kids have put this pack through the gauntlet, and its lived to see them all the way through college. Online buyers who give their email address earn another 15% off.  

If you’d like to widen your options, here’s Amazon’s list of their best kid’s packs for 2019. For upper grades, here’s a list of what Amazon customers like. 

Target online makes it easy to click on your kid’s grade level and carries well-known brands like High Sierra, Jansport and Herschel. Scroll down the page to see what packs are on sale and find more deals like a BOGO on Thermos containers. 

Meijer carries character-themed backpacks for younger grades and designer backpacks like Adidas and Emma & Chloe for more choosy tastes. You’ll find similar prices and options Walmart, they’re also chock full of choices and styles that include a matching lunchbox. 

THE MOST-WANTED LIST

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Pencils and crayons and (Expo) markers, oh my. 

No matter the grade level, writing implements are a key element of any back-to-school list. Kroger’s current ten for $10 sale lets customers select from 29 different item options, with tried-and-true bags of bic Cristal pens and mechanical pencils included. You’ll also find Crayola crayons, markers, glue, composition as well as wide- and college-ruled spiral notebooks, erasers, and scissors for the younger crowd. While high school students are mostly off-the-hook for markers and crayons (and probably have a backstock at home from previous years) the option to buy Post-its, highlighters and Sharpie’s round out the group nicely. 

CVS, Walgreens and Rite Aid certainly carry their own stash of BTS purchases, but their prices are still a bit above where they will finally land after first day jitters have passed. Wait a bit for prices to drop, but keep relying on them for last-minute glue sticks and construction paper on those nights your dear one  finally remembered a project was due the following day.   

Staples will price match up to 110%. Click here for the local Rochester Store’s weekly flyer to see current deals. This week’s flyer features composition and one-subject notebooks, crayons, colored pencils, markers, folders, and glue sticks for LESS. THAN. A DOLLAR. EACH. And three-ring binders just over a buck. They also have crayons galore. 

Walmart also has a user friendly BTS landing page with links to select by grade level. Lots of good stuff at Walmart’s “always-low” prices.  

ORGANIZATION

The Dollar Tree has a lot of useful storage options, like these neat bento-box style lunch containers with a fork and knife set nestled in the top. The trick about buying from their online store is you usually have to purchase case at minimum. This option is certainly better suited to teachers’ needs, but if you can’t find what you’re looking for in-store and decide to purchase a case on-line you can consider donating any extras to a school store, PTA, or a local non-profit organization. Or see if another parent has the same needs and split the cost. One area the Dollar Tree bulk-buy proves cost-effective in is filing and folders – plenty of colors to choose from and a stack at home for mid-year folder burnout. 

Depending on the color, Office Depot has pocket-folders for 20 to 50 cents each - a savings over 70% off. Here’s a link to their general BTS sale page as well.  

Staples’ standard plastic pencil cases give a clear window to organization for a low cost and come in five colors to choose from.  Their clear snap case is also priced to move. 

TECH

If a scientific or graphing calculator is a requirement and using an app on your phone in class is a no-no, your teacher may you to purchase a specific style. Always check with your teacher first before you make a big purchase like this. And it you’d like to start pricing around, here’s what Google turned up

Emailing files back and forth, especially different versions of the same file, to yourself, can get confusing. Even reading that sounds confusing. USB drives increase ease of file access and decrease the chances someone forgets to attach the attachment. There are endless options out there, so we’ll leave this one up to the Pros. Here’s a great USB rundown from Lifewire that lists nine options based on speed, budget, durability, ruggedness, security, and operating systems. Eight of the options are an Amazon click away. 

GOODWILL/DONATION

Target focuses a lot of their back-to-school sales on items for outfitting the post-secondary scholar’s dorm room, check out their weekly deals here. Luckily, a lot of those items are also found on many elementary and middle-school teacher wish lists. If you’re feeling generous or came in under budget this year, consider Kleenex and Clorox wipes, liquid hand soap, pretzel rods or other healthy, peanut-free snacks like Jolly Ranchers as a kind way to let your local teacher’s know you appreciate their hard work and have their back.

Elementary and middle-school teachers can certainly always use a new game or activity in their rainy-day recess repertoire. Walmart has some classics on clearance right now, including Sorry!, Candyland, and Trouble, along with inexpensive strategy and card games to keep those brains on point through soggy weather.

Utica Education Association