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Ready, set — go back to school: Parents on expenses, strategies and preparing for a new year

A hurricane threat, an improving but still shaky economy, a pandemic that won’t go away, and oh, right, getting the kids ready for the 2021-2022 school year.

The last is just another thing on parents’ minds this summer, when about 200 students will be enrolled and start classes on Sept. 2 at Shelter Island School.

They will be among 56.4 million students estimated to attend elementary, middle and high schools across the country this year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Two families we spoke to — the Bartiluccis and the Rasmussens — have the additional challenges of children transitioning from one academic category to another, and another, the Doughertys, have a senior preparing for her final year of school on Shelter Island.

There’s also expenses to consider and plans to prepare kids going from summer freedom to fall and winter discipline. All seemed ready for the great annual changes that back to school bring.

Money, money

From what we heard from the three families, suiting kids up here and supplying them for their studies was way below the national average, which is about $849, according to the National Retail Federation.

Amanda Bartilucci is getting Nicolette (Coco), 4, and Alexis (Lexi), 11 — Ms. Bartilucci’s stepdaughter, “I’m her bonus mom” — ready for the year. She estimates the family has spent about $200 for sneakers, clothes and backpacks.

The Bartilucci family. From left, Alexis (Lexi), Dave Jr., Dave Sr., Nicolette (Coco) and Amanda. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Cathy Rasmussen got Danielle, 12, and Joseph, 10, on track for opening day by shopping at the beginning of August, but she didn’t have to buy much. Sneakers are always a necessity and expense with growth spurts happening several times a year. It was hard to estimate, she said, but she thought it cost about $100 per child.

“They have plenty of clothes,” Ms. Rasmussen added, noting that the tradition of having a special first day of school outfit has mostly gone by the wayside.

Backpacks were first on the list, with Joseph getting a “Call of Duty” model, for his favorite video game. Danielle was a different story, Ms. Rasmussen said. “She’s going into middle school, so we got a more practical backpack from L.L. Bean, because she has to carry more. I wanted a sturdier backpack to handle the substantial weight increase.” The step up to middle school means, she explained, her daughter “won’t have a cubby anymore where she can store her stuff.”

Catherine Rasmussen with Danielle and Joseph. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Ms. Bartilucci said she bought “a couple of things here and there,” but will be shopping again for fall and winter clothes. Hand-me-downs are the order of the day, as well, she said, with “Coco getting Lexi’s old clothes. But sneakers are a big deal.”

Lora Lomuscio was in full agreement about the sneaker issue for her children, Myla Dougherty, 17, and Leonardo Dougherty, 15. “They can cost a $100 a pair — especially the ones Leonardo likes — and Myla’s on the volleyball team, so she might need new court shoes.”

Her children are at an age where they do most of their shopping themselves, she said, especially enjoying a vintage clothing shop in Greenport.


Evening and morning routines for Island kids looking at school’s opening are perhaps the most important changes.

Ms. Lomuscio said Myla and Leonardo worked five days a week this summer, with Myla lifeguarding at town beaches and Leonardo doing the same job for the Heights Beach Club. He also had another gig as an intern at the Historical Society. “They’re used to getting up at a specific time and getting their lunches together and getting out the door,” Ms. Lomuscio said. “We’re only about three minutes from school, anyway.”

The Doughertys. From left, Bran, Myla, Lora and Leonardo. (Credit: Courtesy photo)

Asked if the kids cut it that close to be on time for school, she laughed and said, “Sometimes. Waking up is hard for teenagers. But I’m lucky they’re independent and responsible.”

She’s aware that Myla will have more pressure on her this year as a senior, in addition to applying for colleges, which will start soon.

Ms. Rasmussen said she’s getting her kids prepared for school hours by making bedtime at 8:30 p.m., rather than an hour or so later this summer. The significant change this year is Danielle entering middle school. But she’s confident her girl is ready. “She’s excited,” she said,” noting that she herself is also gearing up for school, as a crossing guard this year.

Ms. Bartilucci said, ‘My kids are big sleeper-inners. We’re getting them to bed earlier and up earlier starting this week.”

Her daughters have been in learning mode this summer because they’ve spent about one hour a week with teacher Janine Mahoney, freshening up on reading and other skills.

Emotionally, Coco is “a bit apprehensive,” her mother said. “She loves school, loves her friends, but she’s transitioning to a full day from a half day.”

Lexi is also a “little nervous going into middle school,” but her excitement having a locker outweighs any nerves about going back. “She’s making plans to decorate it.”

Ms. Bartilucci added that the one member of the family who will feel the most change in the family’s life with the start of school “is Baby David, who’s 18 months. He’ll watch his sisters going off after breakfast during the week.”