‘Reputable’ school supplies only

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St. John’s school singles out bargain store as no-go area for back-to-school shopping

Your child’s school sends home a list of supplies needed for the new school year — fresh pencils, erasers, crayons, exercise books. Does it have the right to tell you where — or where not — to buy them?

A school supply list posted to the St. Teresa’s Elementary School website where parents are advised to “Please purchase your supplies from a reputable store (not Dollarama).” The note had been on the school’s site for months, but was taken down Friday after The Telegram called about the note. — Sscreenshot

St. Teresa’s Elementary School in St. John’s provided parents of kindergartners coming into its French immersion program with a list of school supplies to be purchased and brought to school when the new year begins next week.

It’s all typical school stuff, but with a caveat.

“Please purchase your supplies from a reputable store (not Dollarama),” the list reads, without giving a reason, or defining what the school considers “reputable.”

Dollarama, a Quebec-based national chain of dollar stores that has been operating in Newfoundland and Labrador since 2006, has been a haven for frugal back-to-school shoppers in recent weeks, since it carries a selection of school supplies and popular brand names, including Crayola crayons, Dixon pencils and Elmer’s glue.

When contacted Friday morning, a receptionist at St. Teresa’s said the school principal and the French immersion kindergarten teacher would both be out until next week and were unavailable for comment or to provide an explanation for the direction on the supply list.

Yvette Walton, executive director of the Single Parent Association of Newfoundland, said the organization’s clientele, like many other parents, are placed in a hard situation when schools are specific about what brand names children must bring to school.

The association runs an annual back-to-school supply donation project, the first in the province, having been started 15 years ago, which distributes grade-appropriate school supplies, backpacks and sneakers to local single-parent families.

No brand, store recommendations

The organization, Walton explained, provides donors with school lists for each grade (or asks them to pick up the lists from stores selling school supplies, which often have them available), but makes no requirements when it comes to brand names or sources for the items.

This year, Walton said, the organization will be supplying between 250 and 300 students with their school gear.

“Parents are afraid to send their child to school without what the school is requiring, and I have never heard a good reason as to why the schools are actually naming the brands of things that they want.

“It’s a hardship, because parents can sometimes get the supplies cheaper elsewhere,” Walton said.

“Clearly, there has to be a reason, or they wouldn’t care. But they should be able to say it and justify it. As a teacher myself in the past, the only reason I could think of is that they’ve found that certain brands prove to be more durable, but still, it should be a choice.”

Store not commenting

A spokeswoman for Dollarama said the company would not be commenting on the snub by St. Teresa’s.

The school supply lists, which had been posted on St. Teresa’s website all summer, were removed late Friday afternoon, after The Telegram contacted the Newfoundland and Labrador English School district for comment. The school district said the kindergarten list had been distributed and posted by mistake.

“Once the error was realized, the list was taken down and replaced,” a spokeswoman for the district said in an email.

“The Newfoundland and Labrador English School District recognizes it is up to parents/guardians to make the best decisions for their families when shopping for back-to-school items. We are mindful of the financial burden this time of year can place on some families, and schools are asked to provide a generalized list of what will be needed for a new school year.

“As a district, we attempt to neither discourage nor encourage parents/guardians to purchase specific brands or frequent certain businesses, although suggestions are sometimes offered based on the experience of our classroom teachers regarding quality and longevity of basic school supplies. The final decision, however, on where and what to purchase rests with the parent or guardian. We regret any confusion or inconvenience this may have caused."


Organizations: Crayola, Single Parent Association of Newfoundland, Teresa’s.The school

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Bettie
    September 02, 2014 - 11:17

    Sorry, I couldn't get past the request in that list for AIRBUDS. (ear buds). These are our children's educators.

  • Renee
    September 01, 2014 - 22:18

    As with everything else, here is something new to add to an ever growing media shark frenzy...Yes, it's not politically correct to suggest that parents/caregivers/providers(that should cover the bases...Heaven forbid I start another war or words on family classifications) buy their supplies from a particular store/brand, etc...But as a mom of 5 children and with years experience of buying supplies, sometimes you need to purchase materials that actually work...Glue sticks always being the number one issue from bargain giant stores such as Dollarama and other chains in the province...I can't tell you how many times I purchased glue sticks only to open them up and they resemble an eraser...No stick, just bendable rubber like material...Most often I've also purchased white erasers that have left more mess while erasing than what was needed corrected...Just for this alone, yes I agree with buying at a REPUTABLE store/brand...Saves the hassle of having to go replace what won't work properly...But specific items should have been listed and reason as well...I purchased school bags at Dollarama for $3 that were equal to the ones at Wal Mart for $10... As someone already mentioned, Staples had excellent sales on all month of August...I purchased all materials on list for 5 children for the entire year for less than $50... People really need to lighten up, stop making mountains out of mole hills and stop trying to cause unnecessary drama...Yes, the school probably erred in suggesting purchasing all supplies there but to go as far as create this craziness is worse...Ultimately it's us who get the children ready to go back to school within out means and it's our decision where to buy supplies for that reason!!

  • Miners53
    September 01, 2014 - 20:18

    An educated person does not necessarily have to have common sense. I hope Dollarama asks for an apology . We have to wonder about other decisions this administrator makes.

  • Anna
    August 31, 2014 - 13:59

    And to think these are the people educating our children. They never apologize for this mistake and then remove the posting as they have gotten caught. No wonder the kids always want only the best, they are learing it from the pros.

  • Adam
    August 31, 2014 - 12:55

    Should we now snub the schools name?; St. Teresa’s, that's Catholic Church Christian name! It should be removed off the building! In fact any school named after any Christian saint should be changed and here in Newfoundland there are many school names associated with Christianity!

  • M
    August 31, 2014 - 10:35

    Personally I take no issue with the school posting the comment. My children's school often list a preference after the item which is always a "brand". I just outfitted two primary kids with supplies for less than $25.00 and all are brand items from Staples. I even have extras of the things they go through the quickest. I know that places like Dollarama sometimes have brand, but often it's lower end supplies. Most primary/elementary classrooms these days have a "community supplies" mentality where most of the supplies like colouring tools, pencils and erasers are used by everyone and doled out as needed. Requesting a specific brand or for a parent to purchase at a particular retailer helps ensure that the community supplies are equal and a parent who took the time to buy "brand" doesn't end up with their child getting lesser quality while the stuff they bought goes to another child whose parent may have purchased lesser quality. Also, if you add it up, buying from Staples at the prices they have in August when the sales start is actually cheaper than Dollarama and the sale usually last all month. I would also like to point out that I am not made of money and I often struggle with the cost of things these days. I am not above bargain shopping and do shop at Dollarama from time to time.

    • Harve
      September 01, 2014 - 15:08

      The recommendation may or may not have been made in error. Nonetheless it (like the reference to "brand" above) is typical of today's predominantly sheep society who are controlled by large self-serving conglomerates. With their mass marketing manipulation of advertising media online and off, it a wonder most of us still have the capacity to think for ourselves. Hell, look at the control Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, is having on our youth. Sadly, in many cases parents are unaware of these activities or could care less. Isn't it time that parents become "Sheppards" themselves, take control and teach their children the same. If a crayon does its job or if a pair of running shoes or sneakers serve the same function as "brand" products do, who is to tell us which one we should purchase. Everyone should have a choice!

  • Joseph Conway
    August 30, 2014 - 23:24

    Joe C says: Look, its the parents choice where they buy their school supplies, to imply there is a "fear" not to abide by the list of the school is ludicrious. Its the same as your child has to be in school if the school does not closefor a stormy day. We the parents are ultimately responsible for our children, if in my opinion its too hazardous for a child to go to the bus, then by God my child will not go to the bus,,,, I will not let some other individual, who probably has their children raised, make decisions like that for my child. Bottom line they are your children, you have a right to decide whats in their best interest. In this case you may very well have to make a choice, fresh milk or brand name school supplies,,,,, guess what, I chose the milk!!!!!

    • Harve
      September 01, 2014 - 15:12

      Three thumbs up for your comments Joseph!

  • Lori
    August 30, 2014 - 22:45

    I think this is outrageous, being a single mom the school has no right to tell parents where to get school supplies, they should consider instead that some of the parents cannot afford to go elsewhere..maybe the school should supply the supplies themselves.

  • Hmm
    August 30, 2014 - 08:45

    Dollarama is a Canadian based retailer, I'd rather buy there then at WalMart or Target. As for quality, a lot of the items are the exact same. St. Therea's has no right to tell parents where to get school supplies, a pencil from the dollar store will get the job done as well as one from WalMart. As a teacher, I've taught in poor communities where children were lucky to have any supplies at all, the attitude towards education from school administrators is just one of the reasons I changed my career long ago.

  • Doug
    August 30, 2014 - 08:25

    This goes to show how out of touch some teachers are with reality. They got their fancy new school now and obviously think they're better than their students. ESDNL and the teachers are always going on about their anti-bullying campaigns. What happens now when a child goes to school with something from Dollarama and is ridiculed by those who bought it from Staples or even Walmart? This is shameful, arrogant conduct on the part of St. Teresa's. And this is for kindergarten no less!