ROTTERDAM — The Mohonasen Central School District will provide basic school supplies for all students this upcoming academic year.
The district unveiled plans to provide supplies for all students in a message to parents last week, citing data from the state’s Department of Education that found nearly half of students enrolled in the district are economically disadvantaged.
“Realizing that almost half of Mohonasen families are economically disadvantaged according to measures determined by the NYS Department of Education, Mohonasen will supply students with all their basic school supplies beginning in September,” the message reads. “At some grade levels there may be exceptions to this, such as with backpacks and lunchboxes.”
Superintendent Shannon Shine said the district has budgeted $150,000 to purchase the supplies, which he noted was made possible by an increase in state aid this year. It is the first time, he added, that the district has set money aside to purchase supplies for students.
“With almost half of our families faced with poverty, not to mention the current crippling inflation, we want to be there for our community like they’ve been here for us for so many years,” he said.
An estimated 351 students enrolled in the district were considered economically disadvantaged during the 2020-21 academic year, the equivalent of 42%, according to state data.
Shine said supplies will be handed out to any student who shows up without any. The goal, he said, is to provide students with supplies throughout the year, but noted that path is dependent on how the materials are used and how many families still purchase supplies.
“We are hoping this is more than enough to cover expenses for this year,” Shine said.
Other items, including backpacks and lunch boxes, will not be handed out, but Shine noted that the families struggling to afford such items can reach out to the district, which will then arrange to supply the items to students.
Elsewhere, the Schenectady City School District set aside funds this year for teachers to purchase classroom materials — a first for the district.
Shine said Mohonasen typically sets aside $50 to $100 for teachers to purchase classroom supplies and also provides materials for classrooms through building budgets.
It’s also not the first time Mohonasen has provided students with free materials needed for learning.
The district routinely hands out free food, clothing and other items to students through its MohonCARES program, which has been used thousands of times since the program launched a few years ago.
Earlier this year, the district received a pair of grants totaling $25,000 to expand the program by purchasing new refrigeration units, expanding shelf space and acquiring a washer and dryer unit.
Need for the program is expected to increase this year due to growing inflation and the expiration of a federal program that provided free meals to all students, regardless of income level, that began at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.
The district last month voted to increase breakfast and lunch prices because of rising food prices. Officials said they plan to lobby for the free meals program to be extended.
“We don’t want lack of household funds to be a barrier for access to education for any Mohonasen student,” Shine said.
Contact reporter Chad Arnold at: [email protected] Follow him on Twitter: @ChadGArnold.