Students line up for their bus ride home in 2017 at the Natrona County School District bus hub in central Casper. The district is considering eliminating the need for parents to pay for school supplies.

It’s an annual rite of the waning days of summer: families head to the store to stock up on school supplies. Perhaps a mother or a father are pushing a cart as a child picks out pencils, markers, folders and more.

Up until now, the cost of those supplies has always been covered by the parents. Some pay it with hardly a thought. For others, the supplies are too expensive for their budgets. They might turn to community groups, who have for years helped ensure children are equipped when the first school bell of the year rings.

But more than likely, that will all be a thing of the past when Natrona County schools open again in the fall. The school district is weighing a plan to pay for school supplies for all of its roughly 13,000 students. Specifically, the district would give each school $45 for every student to cover supplies, which would amount to more than $500,000 to pay for everyone.

Despite that cost, we support the plan. First, it will ensure that no student goes without the necessities. Yes, our community is a very charitable one, and many groups and individuals have donated supplies and money to help other students. But it’s likely that some parents don’t avail themselves of such opportunities, whether out of pride or simply not knowing such resources exist.

Second, it will eliminate the instances when one child looks over at a better equipped classmate and wonders why he or she doesn’t have such nice markers or folders. Kids will be on the same footing going forward, allowing them to focus more on their subjects and less on perceived inadequacies.

Some might question why the district has any business worrying about which type of glue stick a child uses. But we think there’s no harm in making sure all kids have the basics they need to succeed as learners.

We do have one request: that school board members consider requiring that a certain percentage of supplies be bought in Natrona County, rather than online or through large wholesalers. Buying local would ensure that local taxpayer dollars stay in our economy. It supports the businesses that are here, as well as the workers who staff them. There is precedent: The school district uses a Casper book store to supply about half the books for the We Read program — a partnership between the Star-Tribune, the Natrona County Library and the district — and the local impact is very positive.

School supplies might seem trivial to some of us jaded adults, but they are important tools that students need for success. We applaud the district for developing this plan and hope the school board enacts it with a vote in the coming weeks. All 13,000 of our kids will be the beneficiaries of that good decision.

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