Harford school shopping

Backpacks are always a hot item on the shopping lists of youngsters headed back to school in Harford County. (MATT BUTTON | AEGIS STAFF, Homestead Publishing / August 20, 2012)

Parents and kids in Harford County got ready to head back to school with plenty of shopping over the weekend, as the state-sponsored week of tax-free shopping also encouraged residents to make their purchases by Saturday.

There's not much time left to prepare, either. Harford's 38,000 public school students head back to class Monday, Aug. 27. Teachers are due back this week, on Wednesday.

At Harford Mall in Bel Air Friday, two booths had been set up at empty kiosks promoting the tax-free week, and a number of shoppers cited the 6 percent saving as an incentive.

Darlene Davis, from Cecil County, was strolling through the mall Friday and said the tax-free week came in handy when buying clothes for her niece, Caitlin Phillips.

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"It was an incentive for me, not for her," Davis said.

Getting items for school was a matter of money, she noted.

"It's here, you just have to pay for it," Davis said.

Caitlin, 14, of Fallston, said she needed new clothes.

"I need some new tops and jeans," she said, adding the shopping was not too stressful for her. "I think it's pretty easy."

Davis said it was hard to find time to shop, as her young relatives are going to sports practice. Caitlin said she is in field hockey, winter track and softball.

Like most school-age kids, Caitlin said she has mixed feelings about going back to school.

"I guess I want to go. I want to go back for the friends and the fun," she said.

At Target in Bel Air, meanwhile, the school supplies aisles were staying busy, as parents packed shopping carts with notebooks, pens and other basics, advising employees when supplies like folders started to run low.

Most shoppers did not seem especially stressed by their trips.

"We have a lot of stuff from last year. We just kind of need notebooks and stuff like that," Donna Haas, of Bel Air, said. She was shopping for two children, in middle and high school.

"I don't make a huge deal about it," Haas said of the shopping. "As they get older, I don't think you have to buy as much."

Haas said school supplies have gotten "probably more expensive," but the number she has to buy has stayed about the same.

Her advice to parents is to not focus too much on getting the exact items on the list sent from school.

"People are always stressed out about getting the right thing," she said. "Teachers really don't care."

Karen Crone, of Abingdon, was shopping for her special education students at Harford Technical High School.