For the past two years, I've had community supplies in my classroom. Essentially, students don't keep any of their own supplies at their desk. Mostly, this is a classroom management thing. I strongly dislike (my husband told me I should stop saying hate) when students are playing around with scissors, glue, 856 erasers, etc., in their desks when they're supposed to be working on other things.
Also, being at Title I schools means that some of my kiddos don't bring any supplies, and some bring the absolute best! I've found that sort of "leveling the playing field" by having students use community supplies, it eliminates a feeling of "this is mine, so I'm not sharing," or even students teasing other students about their supplies.
Here's how it works: when supplies (consumables - glue, pencils, markers, colored pencils, erasers, paper, folders, etc.) come in to class, they get separated and go into bins. The job of my Equipment Manager passes out and collects pencils each day from the team tubs, check team folders for paper, and so on.
I've been fortunate enough to have class sets of scissors, an abundance of pencils, folders, and spiral notebooks so I'm able to supply much of what my students need with the help of what parents send in. Plus, I like to have color coded folders and notebooks (part OCD, part management). So when students bring in their Justin Beiber folders, glitter pencils, and camo pencil boxes, I tend to send them home saying that these can be used at home for special projects.
My first year teaching, I no one complained, however, at the beginning of last year, I had a few unhappy parents. Although not many, I'd like to start off the year will all happy parents. Once I explained, they were totally okay with it, but I'd like to be more proactive about it this year.
Do any of you use community supplies? If so, what do you tell parents? Do you send home some sort of letter at the beginning of the year? I'd love to hear what you do in your classroom!