Elkhart Education Foundation to open supply store for teachers

West Side Middle School students Kellen Hartman, left, and Abi Presswood, right, clean out their lockers and drop unwanted school supplies into a recycling box. The donated items will help support Elkhart Education Foundation’s school house supply store opening this summer. 

ELKHART — Teachers at Elkhart Community Schools are often digging into their own pockets spending an average of $1,000 a year on school supplies and personal care items for their students, according to studies by the Elkhart Education Foundation.

To help ease that financial burden, the foundation is gearing up to open a school house supply store both brick and mortar and online where teachers and staff can get any supplies and items they need free of charge that without which hinder students from achieving academic success.

“We’re hoping that this school house supply store will make things just a little bit easier on our faculty and staff,” said Ashley Boling Molyneaux, the foundation’s director. “That’s what the Elkhart Education Foundation is about – making extraordinary learning experiences happen that wouldn’t have happened otherwise by supporting the public school system.”

With the school year nearing an end, the foundation is currently working with all 21 of the corporation’s school buildings for its  recycling program as a start for the supply store. Students are encouraged to drop off unwanted clothes or school materials that they aren’t taking home into the recycling boxes in their school’s hallway. 

And throughout the summer, the foundation will have 50 different locations where people can drop off any new or gently used school supplies into school bus boxes that will be placed throughout the community. Volunteers will sort through the donated supplies to determine which ones are reusable and drop them off at the store.

The store will be stationed on the second floor of the Elkhart Academy Tipton. It will be open twice a week from 3 – 7 p.m. where teachers can physically come and browse to see what’s available for grabs.

The foundation will hold a ribbon cutting at the school supply store in August, just before the school year starts.

Teachers and staff will also have the option of ordering online on the foundation’s website where teachers and staff see in real time what inventory is and order what they need. Deliveries will be made once a week to teachers at their respective school.

“So say they’re a coach and can’t get to the school house supply store in a specific week because they don’t get off until 7 p.m. or something, then they can place an online order and have it delivered straight to them,” Boling Molyneaux said.

The website should be up and running by the end of July, Boling Molyneaux said.

The idea for the supply store started after the corporation’s referendum didn’t pass in May, Boling Molyneaux said.

The referendum would have generated almost $16 million over eight years with a primary goal of helping to attract and retain teachers and staff by increasing pay and benefit. It would have also raised property taxes, a measure that voters rejected.

Boling Molyneaux said the supply store is one way the foundation is helping to fill the gap.

“When the referendum didn’t pass, we need to find creative ways to support our teachers and this schoolhouse supply store is one of the ways we’re doing it,” she said. “if we can alleviate teachers from spending $1,000 out of their own pockets on school supplies, it’s almost like giving them a raise.”

One of those teachers is Stephanie Rappatta, a choir teacher at West Side Middle School, who said she spends $500 to $1,000 on school materials every year.

She expressed her appreciation to the foundation for starting the store and said it’ll lift a financial burden for many teachers by helping them help their students achieve academic success.

“This store is going to provide me as an educator the ability to provide the basic needs for my classroom that I may not always have available – pencils, paper – or anything that students would need to be successful in my classroom daily,” she said. “It also alleviates me financially a bit to help provide other opportunities for my students that I wouldn’t be able since I had to cover school supplies.”

Boling Molyneaux agreed.

“Morale is so important because happy teachers mean effective teachers and happy students who are learning,”  she said. “So for us, in whatever way we can support the educational process is amazing.”

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