KEYSTONE HEIGHTS, Fla. — The excitement families and teachers may feel about heading back to school for the first time in two years that COVID-19 isn't dominating headlines does not hold true when it comes to back-to-school shopping with inflation.
In Clay County teachers are getting some help. The Clay Education Foundation and The Bailey Group opened a second shop in Keystone Heights Wednesday where Clay County public school teachers can go get school supplies four times a year for free.
At the start of the school year Clay County Teacher Dr. Tori Hersey says she spends at least $150 and that number only goes up throughout the year. Clay Education Foundation states teachers will spend more than $500 of their own money on classroom supplies and some surveys estimate teachers spend hundreds more.
"The IRS says that we can claim $500 a year on educational expenses and I can tell you that I go over that every year," said Sarah Crawford, another Clay County teacher.
"When you're trying to do rewards too sometimes with the kids, like candy or a party, you know, 'Hey, reward, for doing what you're supposed to every nine weeks,' it gets expensive for 120 kids," said Hersey.
Now an unassuming room in the back of Keystone Heights Elementary's gymnasium is filled with supplies for teachers. This is the second, smaller Tools 4 Clay Schools Free Teacher Store. The main store is in Garber Automall in Green Cove Springs.
"We wanted to be able to get free supplies to all of the Clay County teachers," said Heather Obermiller, Clay Education Foundation program assistant. "Keystone is really just far away for them to drive to Green Cove and we wanted to make it accessible."
Crawford and Hersey say it feels like Christmas.
"This is a huge help," Crawford said. "It really helps our teachers who live and work out here."
From Tools 4 Clay Schools Free Teacher Stores, teachers have gotten more than $300,000 worth of school supplies for free.
"The fact that it's available to us all year, it's such a blessing, definitely, to us here at Keystone," said Hersey.
The next free teacher shop day at Garber Automall is Monday, August 8.
Their summer supply drive for teachers goes until September 1. You can also donate here.
Drop off supplies at any of these locations:
Clay County Sheriff’s Office and Jail
Clay County Tax Collector’s Office
Clay County Utility Authority
Spring Park Coffee
VyStar Credit Union Clay locations
Julia’s Midtwon Cafe
Clyde’s Cozy Corner Cafe
Gifts and Guns
Bryan’s Ace Hardware
Florida Cracker Kitchen
Florida Homes Realty and Mortgage