It's time for Chattanooga area families to prepare for going back to school

It's time for Chattanooga area families to prepare for going back to school

July 27th, 2014 by Barry Courter, Susan Pierce, Casey Phillips and Lynda Edwards in Life Entertainment

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

DAY 1

TENNESSEE

Hamilton County: Aug. 7

Bradley County: Aug. 8

Grundy County: Aug. 8

Marion County: Aug. 11

McMinn County: Aug. 12

Meigs County: Aug. 8

Polk County: Aug. 4

Rhea County: Aug. 8

Sequatchie County: Aug. 4

McCallie School: Aug. 18

Baylor School: Aug. 18

Girls Preparatory School: Aug. 18

Notre Dame High School: Aug. 11

Bright School: Aug. 14

Silverdale Baptist Academy: Aug. 13

Grace Baptist Academy: Aug. 11

Chattanooga Christian School: Aug. 13

GEORGIA

Catoosa County: Aug. 18

Chattooga County: Aug. 5

Chickamauga City: Aug. 13

Dade County: Aug. 20

Murray County: Sept. 2

Walker County: Aug. 13

Whitfield County: Aug. 7

Dalton Public Schools: Aug. 7

ALABAMA

DeKalb County: Aug. 7

Jackson County: Aug. 12

Tabulating the tech

TABLET

For those in Apple's camp, the latest-generation of iPad (starting at $499) and iPad Mini (starting at $399) offer nearly identical specifications, but if size and weight are deciding factors, the Mini's 7.9-inch display is more hand- and backpack-friendly.

Android users have a more difficult decision to make since the operating system is used by a ton of devices. The 7-inch Nexus 7 ($229) is still the top of the Android heap, according to the latest breakdown of Android-based tablets on CNET.com. Those who simply must have Google's latest and greatest may want to hold out for the rumored Nexus 8, which could be out by the end of the year. But if you need a device today, CNET's second recommendation is the Samsung Galaxy Tab Pro 8.4 ($399), which allows users to run multiple apps on-screen at once.

KEYBOARD

Unless you've bought a tablet-hybrid with a detchable dock made by the tablet manufacturer, such as the Lenovo Miix 2 ($500) or ASUS Transformer Pad TF103C ($299), you'll need to decide what kind of keyboard you want.

For those with cases, you'll want a separate set of Bluetooth-compatible keys such as Apple's all-aluminum Wireless Keyboard ($70) or the Logitetch K810 ($100), which is backlit.

If you want to safeguard your device and type faster, folio cases combine screen guards with a built-in keyboard for added protection and productivity. According to PCMag.com, the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover is the best choice for Apple users with versions for both iPad Air ($90) and iPad Mini ($80) available.

There are few universally compatible keyboard cases for Android devices, but Zagg has launched a series of Auto-Fit cases that adjust to fit tablets with different screen sizes. Currently, only the model that's compatible with seven-inch (ish) devices, such as the Nexus 7 or Tegra Note 7, is available ($80), but 8-inch and 10-inch models are on the way.

CHROMEBOOK

Although it might take some getting used to, Chrome OS features baked-in online functionality that is in lockstep with Google's online software such as Google Docs, Google Play and Gmail. That reliance on cloud-based applications means many Chromebook functions are tied to a persistent Internet connection, but it also removes the need for large hard drives. This lets Chromebooks get by with the same solid-state storage that makes smartphones and tablets lighter, boot up faster and access applications so quickly.

If all your student needs is access to a platform for writing papers, creating presentations, emailing, researching online and streaming media through services such as Netflix or Spotify, then a Chromebook is your huckleberry. The options are limited to a handful of models by Acer, HP and Google, but The Verge, a tech-oriented website, recommends the Acer C720P, which features a recent-generation Intel processor, an 11.6-inch touchscreen and 32 gigabytes of storage, twice as much as the competition.

BACKPACK

The ideal 21st-century backpack offers room for dead-tree school supplies like textbooks and paper while also protecting and even powering the smart devices that are becoming crucial to today's student.

In addition to having understated looks that don't scream "Tron," the Tylti Energi+ Backpack has 1,450 cubic inches of storage space spread across 13 total pockets, including a laptop compartment that can accommodate devices (including tablets) with up to 15.5-inch screens. The bag's real gold-star feature, however, is its built-in, 10,400-milliamp-hour rechargeable battery. That's enough juice for multiple smartphone charges or a complete topping-up a tablet. It also has three USB ports - two 1-amp and one 2.1-amp - for charging multiple devices simultaneously.

- Compiled by staff writer Casey Phillips


What it costs: EXTRACURRICULARS

At some area high schools, there is a cost associated with participating in extracurricular activities. Below is just a sample of some of those fees, looking at band, cheerleading and football in particular. These fees can cover everything from practice uniforms to T-shirts, from pompoms to travel expenses. In many cases, there are also fundraising campaigns that replace or complement fees charged by the school

Hixson High School (Hamilton County)

Band: $300

Cheerleading: $1,220 (can work off all or part via fundraisers)

Football: $100

Dalton High School (Dalton Public Schools, Ga.)

Band: $270-$410 (depends on which section the student plays in)

Cheerleading: $0

Football: $0

Heritage High School (Catoosa County, Ga.)

The school doesn't charge a fee for extracurricular activities, but individual booster organizations for each activity do, and students pay their way by working at fundraisers.

Soddy-Daisy High School (Hamilton County)

Band: Not available

Cheerleading: $65 (uniform rental fee)

Football: $0

Walker Valley High School (Bradley County)

Band: $250

Cheerleading: $0

Football: $0

- Compiled by staff writer Barry Courter


What it costs: Private School Tuition

This cross-section of area private schools' annual tuition does not include additional fees such as books, board, laptop/technology or uniforms.

HIGH SCHOOLS

Baylor: $21,839 day student

Boyd Buchanan School: $9,400 grades 9-11, $9,600 grade 12

Chattanooga Christian School: $9,690

Girls Preparatory School: $21,990

McCallie: $22,960 day student

Silverdale Baptist Academy: $8,893

ELEMENTARY

Boyd Buchanan Elementary: $7,280 grades k-5

Bright School: $14,146 grades k-5

Chattanooga Christian School: $6,975 grades k-5

Silverdale Baptist Academy: $7,075 grades 1-5

St. Peter's Episcopal School: $10,115 grades 1-5

Sources: School websites

- Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce


Checking the lists

EAST BRAINERD ELEMENTARY (Hamilton County)

1 backpack (no wheels)

1 pair of earbuds or headphones

1 pack of No. 2 pencils

1 4-pack of Expo brand markers

2 packs of glue sticks

1 ream of white copy paper

2 yellow highlighters

1 pair Fiskar scissors

4 packs of loose-leaf wide-ruled notebook paper

5 marble-cover composition books (two for math, four for other subjects)

1 box of colored pencils

1 100 pack of 3-by-5 index cards

3 three-prong pocket folders

2 rolls of paper towels

1 pack of Clorox wipes

1 box of Band-Aids (non-latex)

2 boxes of Kleenex

1 box of gallon size Ziploc bags

1 1/2-inch notebook

2 two-inch notebooks (one black, one white)

2 pencil pouches

1 pencil sharpener that collects shavings

• Total: $111.04

PARK VIEW ELEMENTARY (Bradley County)

1 backpack (no wheels)

1 white 3-ring binder

1 pack plastic dividers with pockets

1 pencil bag with three holes (snaps into binder)

4 packs of cap erasers

2 packs of sharpened pencils in a large Ziploc bag

1 composition notebook

1 spiral notebook

1 pack of Post-It notes (girls)

1 pack of index cards (boys)

4-count multicolored highlighters

1 red pen

• Total: $25.90


BATTLEFIELD ELEMENTARY (Catoosa County, Ga.)

In addition to buying the items on this list, Battlefield Elementary asks for a voluntary $25 supply donation fee for each fifth-grader from his or her parents. The school website notes that children whose families cannot afford the donation will not be penalized or prevented from participating in class activities.

5 packs wide ruled notebook paper

2 to 3 boxes of tissues

2 containers (80 count or more) of Lysol or Clorox antibacterial wipes (NOT baby wipes)

Crayons and/or colored pencils to be added to class sets

1 to 2 packs of dry erase Expo markers

20-25 No. 2 wooden pencils or disposable mechanical pencils

2 packs of cap pencil erasers

1 pack of glue sticks

Ziploc bags (boys: sandwich size, girls: gallon size)

1 pack of 10 red pens

8 folders with pockets and prongs (not plastic): two yellow, two red, two green, two blue

1 pack of index cards

3 marble cover composition books (not spiral)

Please do not purchase Trapper Keeper-type notebooks due to limited space.

•Total: $62.93


The websites of Amazon, Wal-Mart, Walgreens, CVS, Dollar General, Target, Office Depot and Staples were all consulted before the total costs were calculated for the adjoining list. Since only Wal-Mart had all of the different items in the exact quantities and colors specified, the prices on that website were used to calculate the total cost before taxes. Remember, there are tax-free shopping days coming up in Tennessee (Aug. 1-3), Georgia (Aug. 1-2) and Alabama (Aug. 1-3).

Although Wal-Mart consistently had the lowest prices on items packaged in the exact quantities schools specified, Dollar General Store occasionally beat Wal-Mart by a penny or two on smaller items like three-prong pocket folders, which were 49 cents compared to Wal-Mart's at 50 cents.

Wal-Mart also had the least expensive backpacks, starting at $10 and, along with Dollar Store, it offered the cheapest earbuds at $2.55. Parents can save about $1 per box on items like tissues and zippered plastic bags if they buy a Wal-Mart or Dollar General generic brand rather than Kleenex.

Neither Dollar General Store nor Office Depot had all the items specified on the school lists. Amazon had all the items but many, like binders, were packaged together in larger quantities than a child might need.

Keep in mind, the inventories listed on the websites can change on any day, so if Walgreens is out of pink composition books on Friday, check back on Saturday. And there can be bargains for items bought in quantities of a dozen or more. Parents who can pool their supply lists together and buy in bulk might save quite a bit.

East Brainerd Elementary School's fifth-grade school supply list had by far the most items and the most specifications. (The Band-Aids must be non-latex, for example, and one of the 2-inch binders must be black, the other white, and so on.) East Brainerd's total cost shopping online would be $111.04. By contrast, Park View Elementary School in Bradley County had a much briefer fifth-grade list that would cost only $25.90 to fill.


Special bargains

Wal-Mart, Dollar General and Office Depot were offering various specials, price rollbacks and limited-time offers so prices can change constantly.

• Wal-Mart's website has a link that gives you the store's Value of the Day, Value of the Hour and While Supplies Last. All can be ordered online at walmart.com/cp/Value-of-the-Day/1058864

• Dollar General's website has a special tab entitled "School Supplies." Click on it and you can find an app that sends you daily alerts for coupons and special price cuts.

• Office Depot divides its school supplies by grade level, including items that may not be on your school's supply list but might come in handy, like flash drives shaped like Angry Birds, Batman and baby seals.


Helpful donations

The United Way of Greater Chattanooga estimates that 55.4 percent of Hamilton County children are disadvantaged economically. Public school teachers are already dipping into their own wallets to help their students get supplies.

If you can afford to help some children who can't afford the supplies on these lists, you can drop off donations at United Way offices or at the Teacher Supply Depot at 2225 Roanoke Ave. Some Walgreens and Wal-Marts also will have bins set up for donated school supplies.

- Compiled by staff writer Lynda Edwards


Preparing for kindergarten

Hamilton County Schools' kindergarten teachers offer parents tips to help their children successfully transition from preschool to the more structured kindergarten classroom.

"Parents should start getting kids on a schedule so they have a set bedtime and set time to get up in the morning, so they get used to that. Parents should start talking it up about how great kindergarten will be, how much fun, the new friends they'll meet, how special it is to be old enough to accept the responsibility to come to school. Start preparing children mentally to come to kindergarten."

- Phyllis Copeland, Barger Academy, 40 years in education, 2013 Hamilton County Teacher of the Year Grades K-4

"Kindergarten now is what first grade used to be. A lot is asked of children today.

"I do READ 20 evaluations required of all entering kindergartners. In that task, children are asked to know their upper- and lowercase alphabets, recognize numbers one through 10 and recognize colors. They are required to write their first name, with the first letter capitalized and the rest lowercase. A lot of children can do these already.

"Children don't have to have any of these skills to get into school; the evaluation shows their level of preparedness."

- Pam Binkley, Ooltewah Elementary School, 36 years in education

"There are so many things parents can do to help their children make this transition. Just getting them familiar with their new school - walking them around the building, meeting the principal and teacher - will help them be a little more at ease since school is so much larger than any preschool they've been in.

"Make sure children get a good breakfast in the morning, if they don't have breakfast at school. If they do eat at school, make sure they get there on time so they are not rushed.

"We have children come in who are very shy. We want parents to encourage their children to ask questions, learn to raise their hands. They also need to know that one person talks at a time. They need to learn to listen, not interrupt, particularly if it's an only child who isn't used to that. Basic courtesy is what we are trying to teach them.

"Look for teachable moments when you're out with your children. When you are riding down the road, look at signs, ask what colors they are, what letters are on them. Count steps from your car to the house and read to children."

- Beverly Jordan, Barger Academy, 37 years in education

"Academically, work on knowing the difference between letters and numbers. If they know that, then move on to knowing the sounds letters make. Kindergarten today isn't playing and arts and crafts. With Common Core, kindergarten is more like what first grade was. Naptimes have been gone a long time.

"Allow your children more independence, let them learn to do things for themselves. Teachers don't have time to tie 18 pairs of shoes, take them all to the bathroom, open their Thermos bottles and such. Don't be afraid to teach your kids to use scissors. You can always tell the children who have never used scissors - their work looks like Picasso and their parents call, asking why we 'let them cut holes in their shirts.'"

- Julie Warren, Hixson Elementary School, 5 years in education

- Compiled by staff writer Susan Pierce