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Ready, set, go back to school

COURTESY PHOTO The Morehead family at the Museum of Natural History last week. From left, Nicholas, Larkin, Cayman and Paige.
The Morehead family at the Museum of Natural History last week. From left, Nicholas, Larkin, Cayman and Paige.

On Monday morning, Victoria Weslek was preparing for a trip to a couple of big box stores in Riverhead to get her three children — Harrison, 11, Evan 9, and Elizabeth 7 — school supplies and clothes for the first day of school.

The Weslek kids are three of 217 students going back to Shelter Island School next Wednesday, September 5, counted among the 50.7 million public elementary and secondary students heading back to classrooms across the country, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

It’s a time of change and often stress, but Ms. Weslek said the family has a handle on the situation.

“Today I have to look at the [school] materials list,” she said, adding that she’s been in touch on social media with friends about where the bargains are for kid’s clothes and supplies. “I’m doing well on that,” she said. “It seems we’re going to the right places.”

Ms. Weslek remembers when she was a girl “loving getting new back-to-school clothes.” But this year won’t be a major shopping run, she added, since “we just need a little bit here and there.”

The Weslek family is following the trend of 83 percent of shoppers this year by going to brick-and-mortar retailers rather than shopping online, according to the annual back-to-school survey conducted by Deloitte, a national accountancy and consulting firm.

Ms. Weslek said the shopping trip won’t put any significant holes in the family budget since she’ll shop for bargains and make do with what the kids already have. According to Deloitte, parents surveyed across the country will spend about $510 getting their K-12 kids ready for school, with the lion’s share spent in stores ($292) and the rest online ($115).

Merchants are expected to take in $28 billion this year on back-to-school sales, the survey found.

Nicholas and Paige Morehead, getting Cayman, 9, and Larkin, 5, suited up, have a fairy godmother — or rather aunt — Tonya Larkins, who enjoys treating her niece and nephew by buying supplies and clothes.

The Moreheads have employed a strategy of not doing everything at the last minute, but have “chipped off” their list of chores throughout the last month, Mr. Morehead said.

Getting the children ready emotionally and on a school schedule is another matter, but Cayman and Larkin are, thankfully, still “semi-oblivious” that school is actually going to begin, he said. “We’ll get started talking about it at the end of this week, with, ‘Hey, you know, school is just right around the corner.’”

This summer, the Morehead children have kept up with their reading. Mr. Morehead said Cayman and Larkin have an advantage, since Paige is a teacher and knows the best practices to help the kids stay on track with their education. Mr. Morehead has been reading to them from a favorite book series: “The Land of Stories.”

“I’m enjoying the book as much as they are,” he said.

Getting on a new schedule has to be thought out, Ms. Weslek said, especially changing from summer sleeping to school bedtimes and early risings.

“It’s a little harder than in past years, because Harrison is going into 6th grade so he stayed up a little longer,” she said.

She believes strongly in the right amount of sleep for her children’s health and has consulted with the family pediatrician. “Starting next week I’ll tell them, ‘You’re going to have to start waking up at 6:45 in the morning, so you need to go to bed at this time,’” she said. “It might be a little harder because they’re older.”

Usually about a third of school-bound students are worried about the workload of a new year, according to Nemours, a nonprofit health system with a focus on children, and another third are concerned about getting along with their peers. Rounding out the stress factor is how peers will view their personal appearance.

Elizabeth is going into 2nd grade and “she’s a bit nervous,” Ms. Weslek said. Through kindergarten and first grade, Elizabeth had one teacher and one classroom, but this year there are “two teachers and she’ll be switching classrooms,” Ms. Weslek said. “There are also more expectations. But for the last week she’s been excited about going back.”

Change comes for adults as well when the first school bell rings. Ms. Weslek counts herself lucky that her “time is flexible,” so she can be with her children during the summer months.

Passionate about fitness, she’s started a business promoted through social media called “Whole Health With Vicki,” and “after school starts I can manage my time differently.”