Staff at Audubon Elementary School in Dubuque have loaned out nearly 100 pairs of snow pants to students to use for the winter.

Staff members keep a stock of the winter garments in the school’s snow pants library, which they use to ensure students have warm pants during the colder months.

“It helps families save a little bit of money to not have to be buying the pants every year,” said Mimi Holesinger, Audubon’s school connections specialist.

It also helps school staff make sure students can play in the snow at recess, as well as giving them warm clothes for walks to and from school. About 230 students attend Audubon.

The effort is one of multiple ways that staff at area schools ensure students have winter clothes.

“If we see a need, we fill the need (and) make sure kids have what they need to stay warm during the winter,” said Brad Sturmer, principal of Winskill Elementary School in Lancaster, Wis.

Supplying snow pants

Audubon’s snow pants library got its start after Holesinger noticed that students would start asking about them after the first snowfall of the winter. While the school had some on hand, they seemed to run out each year.

With the help of a grant from Theisen’s Home-Farm-Auto and a donation from a staff member who hosts a golf outing each year with her husband, the school was able to purchase about $2,000 worth of snow pants to loan out to students each year.

The “library” currently has about 120 pairs of pants, 99 of which have been loaned out so far this winter, Holesinger said. Students will return their pants to the school when the weather warms up.

“We didn’t turn anyone away,” Holesinger said.

Students have the option to leave their pants at school and use them for recess or to take them home to use to play in the snow or to walk to and from school. Families whose children already have snow pants still can check them out for their children to use at school.

Having a pair of winter pants means students are able to play in the snow with their peers during recess, Holesinger said. It also is a benefit for children who walk to school.

“It’s difficult for families to get going in the morning in the cold, so this is a little extra layer of support for them,” Holesinger said. “And it’s just really fun for the kids to have proper winter gear so they can play outside in the snow.”

Megan Averkamp’s daughter Aniyah is a first-grader at Audubon who has borrowed snow pants from the school for the past two winters.

“She loves them,” Averkamp said. “She brags about them, both years (saying), ‘Mom, I have my snow pants.’”

Averkamp is a single mom, and the option helps her pocketbook during the winter months. She said it is heartwarming to see school staff care about their students in this way.

“It’s just a wonderful thing that they offer,” Averkamp said.

Meeting needs

Local school staff members take a variety of approaches when it comes to making sure students have access to winter clothing.

Peosta (Iowa) Elementary School works with CrossRoads Church Peosta to secure winter clothes for students.

School staff reaches out to families in the fall to offer help as needed, Principal Melissa O’Brien said. Families respond confidentially with their children’s clothing sizes and interests, and members of the church help supply winter clothes.

Members of the church also have donated a variety of boots, snow pants, coats and other winter gear, which the school keeps on hand to provide to students as needs arise.

“We probably have 15 coats and probably at least a dozen pairs of snow pants and more than that of boots,” O’Brien said.

At East Dubuque (Ill.) Elementary School, staff members have a closet they fill with hats, coats, gloves, pants and boots using donations from staff and community members.

“It seems like there’s always something available in it, and kids have what they need,” said school social worker Sarah Smith.

Officials at other schools said they also keep a stock of winter gear for students.

At Southwestern Wisconsin Elementary School in Hazel Green, staff keep clothes on hand for students who need it, and the school’s parent-teacher organization has a fund set aside to help if a student lacks winter necessities, Principal Angela Barth said.

“I think it contributes overall just to student success, overall success,” she said. “I think it contributes to the students’ overall well-being that those necessities are available.”