Kids are heading back to class, and local schools are in need of assistance. Tax dollars only go so far, and generous community members make a big difference when they pitch in to help. You don’t need a lot of money to assist, although supplies are certainly welcome by teachers who are stretched thin. Your time and skills are just as valuable. As you’ll see by this list, virtually anyone can help out his or her local school in some small way:Supplies

A recent survey showed that teachers spend an average of almost $500 of their own money on classroom supplies. They’re always in need of items like paper, books, pencils, crayons and other consumables, as well as a variety of other items. Talk to your child’s teacher if you’re interested in donating supplies. Find out what he or she needs the most, then go on a shopping excursion.

If you want to help out, but have limited funds, go to dollar stores or watch for sales. If you don’t have any money to spare, organize a local supply drive. Hold it at work or in your neighborhood, and contribute by collecting and delivering the goods.

Time

Your time is probably at a premium, but your local schools are always grateful if you have as little as an hour or two to spare. It’s great to volunteer in your child’s classroom on a regular basis or help out each week in the library or another place of need. However, if your time is more limited, volunteer for a one-off assistance opportunity, like organizing a clean-up day at the school or acting as a chaperon on a field trip.

Often you’ll find that your local schools need someone with your specific talents. For example, if you’re good with computers, they might welcome assistance in installing software upgrades or other necessities in the school lab. If you have a green thumb, they might be thrilled to have you spruce up the landscaping. Those with handyman skills can help with minor maintenance tasks. The principal can likely help you find a perfect fit.

Participation

Parent/teacher associations, school boards, and other school-related organizations need committed individuals. Get active in the association of your choice, attend school board meetings regularly, or participate in whichever school-related organization appeals to you most and has the biggest need. Parental participation is a critical element for a school’s success.

Fund Raising

Is your child’s class trying to raise funds for a field trip or some other activity? Does the classroom need equipment that’s not in the budget this year? If so, your school might appreciate some fund raising help. Many schools are getting away from door-to-door sales, so consider other ways to raise money that don’t require students to approach strangers in their homes. Activities like bake sales, community garage sales, and car washes are popular and need volunteers in order to be successful. If you have good contacts, approach them to donate items for a raffle. One local company, SoCal Honda is listening to the needs of the community and has helped teachers setup their classrooms, sponsored teachers in triathlons who couldn’t afford the entry fee, as well as helping students move into dorm rooms, and other volunteering efforts.

Tutoring

Your own children might be doing well in class, but if some of their classmates are struggling, the school will probably welcome volunteer tutors. Budget cuts often mean local schools can’t afford to run extensive tutoring programs. Help out by stepping in to read with kids, assist with their math homework, or do whatever else fits into your skills set.

These five suggestions will give you a start, but be creative in coming up with other ways to help your local schools. Talk to your children’s teachers and the principal to find out specific needs, then strategize on how to fulfill them. Not only will you help the students, but you’ll also feel a sense of accomplishment in supporting them and their hard-working educators.

Barbara Nefer is a freelance writer. More of her work can be found on Examiner.com. “

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