Ponca City Public Schools (PCPS) begins the new school year on Thursday, August 24th. Parents, guardians, and educators have to purchase supplies to ensure students are prepared for the school year. For some families, getting their child the necessary school supplies can be difficult. This problem mainly comes from the inflated costs of supplies. The Ponca City Chamber of Commerce hosts their annual “Stuff the Bus” event that seeks to lighten the load on parents and teachers, especially those who often spend out of pocket to make sure their students have all the supplies they require, by ensuring there is a stockpile of supplies for students when they return to the classroom.
“School supplies are so important, and with inflationary costs, I will tell you that it is hard on many families to buy the needed supplies. And if you have three or four children, it gets really expensive,” said Chamber CEO Shelley Arrott, who previously served as an educator and superintendent with PCPS. “When I first came to Ponca City, that was the first experience I had with Stuff the Bus and any kind of campaign for school supplies.”
Every year, the Chamber of Commerce and a group of volunteers gather in front of Walmart with a school bus to collect supplies. These supplies are either given to them by shoppers or they take monetary donations to purchase the school supplies themselves. The goal is to fill the school bus with school supplies to give back to the community.
“School’s a hard time for kids. Whenever they come to school for the first day, the number one thing on their mind is: will my teacher like me, and will I have friends. Secondary kids, obviously, they want to have friends and their teachers to like them, but they have multiple teachers at the secondary level. What they don’t need to worry about [is] not having the school supplies that they need to be ready and prepared for class,” said Arrott. “I’ve always said every kid needs a banner above their forehead that says ‘make me feel special’, because that’s what kids want. And if they don’t have the proper school supplies, or backpack, or even tennis shoes, or whatever. It is hard on kids. And is one more extra stress they do not need.”
After collecting supplies, PCPS will hold them in a supply closet at 111 West Grand Avenue for use in the district. The school district and the PIE (Partners in Education) partners have reduced the amount of items on school supply lists immensely through their work.
“The list used to have tons of items on it, and it was unaffordable even for one student. It’s been the goal of the district for several years to reduce that school supply list, and many of the PIE partners are stepping up, and with the Stuff the Bus, there should not be a kid in Ponca City schools that does not have the needed supplies,” said Arrott.
The Stuff the Bus event will be held on Saturday, August 19th from 9 am to 1 pm at Walmart with volunteers at both entrances. Those that will be out of town that day can also donate any new school supplies at the Chamber Office at 420 East Grand Avenue. The Chamber cannot take used school supplies.