Pandemic Insights

Buying school supplies for school this year has proven to be very different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In the loop opener COVID collage

Items like hand sanitizer, masks and wipes are unwelcome but needed additions to classroom supplies.

Back-to-school is big business. Even amid pandemic-induced uncertainties this year, Americans are expected to spend more than $100 billion on such items, according to the National Retail Federation. And while mainstays like notebooks, pens and dorm decor remain common, so too are new school supplies like hand sanitizer, air purifiers and upgraded internet.

Although students in Columbia Public Schools started the school year virtually Sept. 8, elementary families could purchase school supply kits for $27. The sanitized kits were created to prevent the sharing of supplies among students. They include pencils, dry erase markers, notebooks and other materials. Some parents are also employing new “supplies,” such as tutors for small educational pods or subscriptions to homeschooling programs.

College students face different challenges as they balance their in-person classes — many moved to larger classrooms to allow space for 6-foot distancing — with attending class via Zoom. New college must-haves include face masks and a phone app for daily symptom check-ins.

With thousands of students of all levels facing new challenges and real fears, one thing is certain: Back-to-school has never looked quite like this before. 

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