OSCEOLA/MECOSTA COUNTIES — Across Mecosta and Osceola counties, students, parents and teachers are gearing up for the upcoming school year, which means a few less hours of play each day for children and fewer dollars in adults’ bank accounts.

To get students ready for the 2018-19 academic year, parents are looking at spending an average of between $600 to more than $1,000 in back-to-school gear, according to the Huntington Bank annual Backpack Index. While high, these prices show an approximate 6-percent decrease on average from last year’s costs.

The index is the result of Huntington Bank annually obtaining classroom-supply lists from a cross-section of elementary, middle and high schools throughout the eight states the bank serves and compiling a representative list of required supplies and fees. Costs are determined by selecting moderately priced items at national online retailers.

“The annual Huntington Backpack Index serves as a useful tool for our clients and American families everywhere to budget their yearly expenditures,” said George Mokrzan, chief economist for Huntington Bank. “While the 2018 index found some good news for families, parents continue to pay significant sums to equip their children for a successful school year.”

According to the index, prices for materials have remained mostly flat, with the exception of college preparatory materials, which have increased 10 percent since 2017. For elementary students, parents may spend an average of $637, a 4-percent decrease from 2017’s $662 price tag. To get students prepared for middle school, parents may pay approximately $941, a 6-percent decrease from 2017, during which families could spend $1,001 on average. Students in high school will cost parents the most, according to the Backpack Index, with an average $1,355 price tag this year. This estimate is a 9-percent decrease from last year’s $1,489.

Parents aren’t the only ones feeling the sting of back-to-school shopping as teachers spend an average $479 per year on classroom supplies, with some spending more than $1,000 out of their own pockets, according to Huntington Bank.

Various organizations, such as Communities in Schools, work with districts to help alleviate some of the costs of keeping kids in the classrooms and schools equipped for learning.

“We need to ensure every child in America comes to school equipped for success,” said Dale Erquiaga, president and CEO of Communities In Schools. “Regardless of reduction in cost, the price of school supplies remains a challenge for low-income families and for teachers who often supplement supplies for their classrooms. That’s why we bring existing community resources inside schools to make sure that no student starts out behind.”