Editorial: Backpacks for All

Editorial: Backpacks for All

Thousands of students will begin school this fall at a disadvantage; help now so they have the basics.

The first day of school each year is fraught with anticipation and anxiety. Many local students will be concerned about what they wear, who they will see, what it will be like. They’ve already had multiple shopping trips, online and otherwise, to be sure they have the supplies and extras they need.

We live in an area where many if not most families have the means and desire to do almost whatever it takes to give their children the best chances for success.

But for thousands of students, families lack the financial resources to equip them for success on the first day of school and beyond.

In our affluent area, there are many poor families.

In Fairfax County Public Schools, more than 27 percent of more than 184,000 students are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals. That’s more than 50,000 children in Fairfax County who are going through the summer without their usual access to breakfast and lunch. For many of those children, having a fully equipped backpack on the first day of school is out of reach.

In the City of Alexandria, about 60 percent of the Alexandria Public Schools students are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals. That’s more than 8,000 of the city’s 13,000-plus students.

In Arlington, more than 32 percent of the county’s 23,000-plus students are poor enough to receive subsidized meals; more than 7,000 students.

Help these students get started on the right foot by contributing to one of the many local backpack drives.

Virginia sales tax holiday for school supplies and clothing is Aug. 7-9. Purchases of certain school supplies, clothing and footwear are exempt from the Virginia sales tax. Each eligible school supply item must be priced at $20 or less, and each eligible article of clothing and footwear must be priced at $100 or less. See http://www.tax.virginia.gov/content/school-supplies-and-clothing-holiday.

This is a good place to start, but these students need more than backpacks. In this area, we need to address the impacts of income inequality in the schools. If we succeed in effectively educating these students, the savings overall will be enormous. These students need protection from budget cuts in their classrooms. They need help addressing inequality in the face of “bring your own device policies,” and other technology needs.

Here are a few ways to give:

  • Fairfax County Collect for Kids is a public private partnership that provides local children from economically challenged families with the school supplies they need to begin the school year, and has provided 90,000 supply kits and backpacks in its first three years. They seek donations of cash, backpacks donated by citizens and calculators donated by businesses. Contact Jay Garant in Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Business and Community Partnerships at 571-423-1225 jay.garant@fcps.edu or Sherry Noud SMNoud@fcps.edu 571-423-4300, Fairfax County Public Schools Office of Social Work Services.


  • Cornerstones in Reston needs 3,000 backpacks. Each year, Cornerstones and its partner, Kids R First, equip thousands of K-12 children in the Reston-Herndon area (Cornerstones’ clients, as well as other local students who receive free or reduced cost school meals) with brand-new backpacks. You can buy backpacks online and have them delivered to Cornerstones. Or deliver the backpacks to Cornerstones Administrative Office at 11150 Sunset Hills Road, Suite 210, Reston; Aug. 10-14 (Monday - Friday); 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Contact Alacia Earley, Volunteer and Drives Manager, 571-323-9568.


  • United Community Ministries annual Back to School campaign is underway, and they rely on your support to meet the needs of students from low-income families in the Mount Vernon community. They especially need larger-sized backpacks for middle and high school students, and seek cash contributions to buy supplies. http://www.ucmagency.org/back-to-school-2015.html

  • OUR DAILY BREAD Collect for Kids Back to School program runs each summer in partnership with with Collect for Kids in a county-wide effort to ensure that the neediest children in our community receive the supplies they need to succeed in school. The program is made possible through a partnership with Kids R First, Fairfax County Public Schools, the Fairfax County Office of Public and Private Partnerships, Apple Federal Credit Union and numerous community-based organizations and businesses in the Fairfax County area who are working together to provide supplies in a more cost-effective and efficient way. Contact Dawn Sykes at 703-273-8829.

  • Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing APAH is collecting backpacks and supplies for more than 400 children among the 1,200-plus households a year served by APAH, providing low income families with affordable housing. Purchase items on their list. Donations can be dropped off at the APAH office: 2704 N. Pershing Drive in Arlington. Questions? Contact Emily Button, Resident Services Manager, at 703-851-3635 or ebutton@apah.org. https://www.roonga.com/apahschoolsupplydrive/