The 2020 School Tools Supply Drive in Caldwell County brought in only about half the amount of donations as last year.
Organizers say they are grateful for the efforts of local donors during difficult economic times for many families, but new constraints placed on classrooms by COVID-19 mean that much more is still needed.
“Our community is dealing with a lot right now, and for them to turn out in what was still a big way was amazing,” said Katie Tocci, executive director of Teacher Treasures: A Resource Center, the non-profit that receives donations from the Communities in Schools supply drive.
Debbie Eller, executive director of Communities in Schools of Caldwell County, said that a number of factors contributed to the lower turnout this year.
“People were unsure of what schools would look like in the fall, there were a lot of people who weren’t shopping like they normally do, and people not understanding that students need their own supplies,” she said.
Tocci said that more than 20,000 donations is still a big turnout of free resources and supplies this school year. At Teacher Treasures, any teacher employed by the county can register and shop for free classroom supplies.
But because new health and safety protocols prevent students from being able to share supplies such as colored pencils, pens, markers and scissors in class, a set supplies that might have been used to equip half of a classroom in past years now may only be enough for a single student, Tocci said.
“Because they can’t share supplies, the teachers really have a much bigger need, and they are definitely concerned,” she said.
Teachers have also expressed a need for different types of supplies this year: wireless microphones for instructors who are moving between classrooms to give lessons, earphones, “things people might not normally think of,” Tocci said.
There was also a push during the supply drive for donations of flash drives, which can be used for sending home assignments with students who have computers at home but inadequate internet access.
Teacher Treasures is still accepting donations at its new location, 1248 Hickory Blvd. next to The Property Shop, and school supplies are still needed.
The store is opening to teachers Monday and allows teachers to shop by appointment between 3-6 p.m. Monday-Friday. Tocci said that her team is considering expanding hours to be open earlier in the day on Wednesdays, which is currently a remote-learning day for all grade levels in Caldwell County Schools.
“Our goal is always to meet teachers where they are,” she said. “While we were in the process of moving we served teachers out of boxes. Our purpose is to serve them and make sure they and their students have everything they need to succeed.”