Philly teachers hunt bargains for back-to-school supplies

Students are heading back to school in Philadelphia this week.

Their teachers are preparing to welcome them with their own annual ritual: back-to-school shopping.

Teacher Kristin Leubbert will go to great lengths to get the best deal on school supplies. One big-box office supply store, was selling notebooks for a penny a piece, but only a few per customer. Leubbert enlisted a friend’s two daughters.

“One got in line with the markers and the notebooks. The other got in line with the post-its and the notebooks,” she said. “I got in line with something else and the notebooks and we ended up getting 18.”

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(Leubbert says the store cashiers probably saw what was going on and didn’t mind.)

“I could never carry all of this stuff,” Leubbert said one recent afternoon as she loaded her car with bags and boxes of supplies. She lives blocks from the Bache-Martin elementary school in Fairmount where she teaches.

She has spent her Sunday mornings this summer poring over newspaper advertisements, and sharing tips from other teachers.

Leubbert posts deals on twitter with the hash-tag #boughtformystudents. She says students try to bring in everything they’re asked for, even though Bache-Martin is considered a high-poverty school.

“Part of it’s to keep the cost down. Part of it’s to just be able to have everything you need,” she said of the supplies she buys herself, many of them basic classroom items.

“I have more loose-leaf in here,” she said. “I think I have like maybe a hundred pencils.”

Leubbert says teachers will go in on a box of copy paper when school supplies run out. Even with her thrifty shopping, she has spent $300 so far and will spend more over the course of the year.

Bache-Martin principal Yvette Duperon and the school district’s Fernando Gallard expressed surprise, and said that a midyear budget cut last year may have created the perception of a supply shortage. The school district gives teachers $100 a year for supplies, and Duperon said teachers should not have to buy additional supplies.

“When they want to request materials, we have a materials room. They are able to fill out a form. And their request would be filled,” she said.

But many teachers throughout the district report needing more than $100 to outfit their classrooms. New teachers spend the most as they set up their rooms for the first time.

Luckily, they can ask for help from Leubbert and other bargain-hunting pros.

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