School children are enjoying their last vacation days

Monday is the first day of the 2014 school year that runs until December.

Plenty of parents are struggling to find the cash to buy the uniforms and supplies their children will need for class. Not the least of these are police officers. But they have a solution.

The security ministry and the Dirección General de la Fuerza Pública are organizing a seven-kilometer race Feb. 23 in Pavas with an admission of $20 or 10,000 colons. The funds will go to help the police officers most in need, said the ministry. Signups are at the Runners stores around the Central Valley.

Other parents will be racing to just get back to town because they have been on vacation. To expedite their return, the traffic police are restricting major highways this weekend to travel by large trucks. The rush will not be as big as at the end of the Christmas holidays, but some parents have been able to spend much of January with their kids at the beach.

The Ministerio de Educación Pública expects 940,700 students. The ministry estimates that there will be 117,700 in preschool, 447,000 in primary grades, 361,300 in secondary, 83,200 in technical classes and 14,500 in special programs. And all will be housed in 5,191 schools of which 4,069 will be for primary grades.

There will be 72,707 persons on the payroll, an increase of 1,802 since last year, the ministry said. The budget is more than 7 percent of the gross domestic product of the country.

Some additional classes this year will be in the technical area, such as shop and carpentry.

Every year the start of classes is met with some problems, such as private carriers who fail to register with the traffic authorities. There also are problems with classrooms, as might be expected with the large number of buildings and students.

The ministry said that this month and next a number of new or remodeled schools will be inaugurated.

Many private institutions adopt the same calendar as the public schools. Some already have begun classes, others will do so next week.

The economics ministry did a study last month that underlined the fact that many parents will be spending the colon equivalent of $200 or more to get their children ready. The study showed that there were less expensive options with off-brand merchandise and discount stores.

The start of classes is why expats see so many displays of notebooks and other school supplies.

Some expats are shopping, too, because many have adopted informally Costa Rican families and provide school supplies, uniforms and even school shoes to their youngsters.

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