Citrus County went back to school today and the rest of the Bay Area is getting ready. That means it's time to stock up.
"Without supplies you can't teach," said D. W. Waters Principal Veronica Morgan.
However, for many teachers, back to school supplies come at a high cost.
"I've been teaching since 1974, and struggle? Yes, every summer, as a teacher we're struggling and then trying to struggle to get things for the children," said Emelina Torres, a second grade teacher at Oak Grove Elementary School.
An average backpack filled with supplies costs about $75.
"It's difficult, when you tell a student they can't have, you're really saying their parents can't afford it. Kids feel bad enough because their parents can't afford it," explained Morgan.
So many teachers often reach into their own hearts and wallets. On average, 99.5 percent of teachers in America buy supplies for their students out of their own pocket, according to a recent study.
"God, in a year, at least a thousand dollars, if not more," said Lauren Bereski, teacher at Dowdell Middle School.
Emelina agreed, "I've dished out pencil cases. I've gone to dollar stores and bought 20 pencil cases so they all have the same pencil cases."
It's the reason so many teachers line up at the Teacher Tools Supply Store.
"We didn't have this in Connecticut, so it's great, I've saved so much money coming here," Bereski explained.
Funded by the Hillsborough County Education Foundation, the store serves financially challenged Title I schools, which make up more than half of the schools in the county.
Fred Weber, director of IT at the Hillsborough County Education Foundation, said, "The teachers can come in and they can get anywhere from $200 to $600 worth of free supplies. Anywhere from notebook paper to pencils to even office furniture."
"For a teacher, to come and be able to have school supplies ready for those babies, excuse me, for those children -- I call them my babies -- it's just wonderful," said Torres.
State funding will also provide teachers with debit cards for school supplies, averaging around $250 per teacher.
"Oh my goodness, will it help," exclaimed Torres.
"They probably need about $500, but just for copy paper alone is very expensive," added Morgan.
That's the reason many are grateful to have free pencils and pens galore at their fingertips.
As Bereski said, "If they don't have a notebook to take notes, then they get lost, so I think that supplies have a lot to do with how successful they are."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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