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Tips to prepare your child (and you) to return to school

Mary Hill-Wagner | 11/3/2010, 5 p.m.

Questions for students may linger about what the new school year will bring, but local charities hope to at least provide the answer to questions about school supplies. School-age children can receive free school supplies, including backpacks, at the fifth annual Back to School Family Inclusion and Resource Fair on August 29 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Foundation for the Junior Blind, 5300 Angeles Vista Blvd., Los Angeles. Free health screenings are also being offered at the fair.

In Inglewood, some 13,000 students and 600 teachers and instructional support staff will return to the trenches of learning on August 30.

"Hopefully, they will have gotten a copy of their school schedule, before classes are set to begin," said Gary McHenry, superintendent for the Inglewood Unified School District (IUSD). "Normally they receive them by mail, and some at the high school pick them up. It helps to allay some fears, if they know where their classes are and who their teachers are going to be."

Schools throughout the state have had to face a budget crunch. Inglewood is no exception. About 50 teachers were laid off last year, McHenry said. "We've tried to provide training for the remaining teachers," he said. "This is something that school districts are struggling with all over the nation."

If they want to do their part, students can prepare for class by showing up with the appropriate supplies, and ready to work, he said.

Children and their parents need to take advantage of community programs that donate school supplies, said Verna Paul, treasurer for the PTA for PTA, which includes parts of Westchester, Carson and other areas of Los Angeles.

"Parents need to take advantage of the community supply line. Also, they can help their children prepare by making plans to volunteer at their child's school. The (upside of the high) unemployment rate means that parents might have time to volunteer at school. It helps the child to see a parent volunteering at the school. It's important to get out to the sales (for school supplies), and to start them out with a good breakfast, but parents can help too by just being a presence at the school."

Meanwhile, Beverly Hutchinson, council president of the Parent Teachers Association (PTA) for the Inglewood Unified School District believes parents would do well to start preparing students to return to school as soon as the summer starts. The council president has a 16-year-old daughter in high school in the district this year.

When summer starts, "It's mandatory that (my daughter) reads three novels, so she can stay focused. I make sure she reads throughout the summer. I make sure she has healthy foods. I don't require a set time for her to sleep. But I require that she gets her rest. Then, we shop for supplies and clothes," Hutchinson said. "I expect other parents to do the same. They're not in school just to socialize, but to learn. They should take their education seriously."