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POPE’S VIEW: Don’t forget the best ‘free’ school supply

It’s crunch time for parents and students to get ready to go back to school. For St. Johns County public schools, school starts Friday (Aug. 10).

St Johns County Public Library

by Margo Pope

It’s crunch time for parents and students to get ready to go back to school. For St. Johns County public schools, school starts Friday (Aug. 10). For other schools that don’t start next Friday, their new year probably starts the following week.

Barring any stormy weather, we can expect students to be on summer “time” right through the day before the new school year begins.

This weekend is the usual big weekend for summer shopping: Florida’s Tax-Free Holidays continue today through Sunday until 11:59 p.m. for school supplies and clothing/accessories. If you are new to this process, it means that school supplies and clothing/accessories, up to certain price points, are free of state sales tax per eligible item. The one regret is that this year the Florida Legislature did not extend the tax-free savings to computers although it was done in past years.

But there’s an important freebie for the asking. Many students already have it but, if not, it’s available today at the earliest: A St. Johns County Library Card.

“It’s the perfect back-to-school supply,” says Lisa Calvert, St. Johns County Library System’s Virtual Services Librarian who is also in charge of the library’s marketing outreach.

Getting one is easy and can be taken care of today in person at any of the county’s libraries. Student and parents must come together so parents can show proof of St. Johns County residency and acknowledge their financial responsibility for fines should their student incur them.

If possible, I recommend going today so that the students can get familiar with the free web since in the library system’s Back to School Resources links. There are two online services that will be especially helpful to students of all ages, elementary through university levels.

“A lot of students have library cards already and use them for the homework resources the libraries offer,” she said. Her own children use them, too. That’s a great recommendation for all parents and students in my view.

The key sites accessible with a library card are: Brainfuse and Ask A Librarian.

Brainfuse in an on-demand free service to the library cardholder that the county’s library system purchased. Calvert said library staff reviewed several companies that make online learning platforms available before selecting this one.

Here’s what Brainfuse offers: Free on-demand, anytime, anywhere eLearning. One-to-one online homework help with live academic tutoring, live skills tutoring, writing assistance and test prep center. It is open to all ages from elementary to university levels. Brain Fuse is available daily, 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.

To access, open the county’s library website, for the link to Back to School Resources. Scroll to Brainfuse, click on the link and it will take you to its login page. After set up, students can log on using an Android app at Google Play or the Apple ap iOS at iTunes.

Ask A Librarian is also accessible on the Back to School Resources link. The statewide website is student may chat, text or email a Florida librarian for help with finding resources, databases for research, and other homework help.

The statewide hours of operation are: Sunday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to midnight, and Friday and Saturday, 10 am. To 5 p.m. Calvert said that local librarian re part of this service, too.

These are another great reason to get that Library Card today!

Margo C. Pope was associated with The St. Augustine Record for 24 years, retiring in 2012 as The Record’s editorial page editor