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Scott G Winterton, Deseret News
School officials roll out the red carpet at Butler Elementary School Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 as kids return to class.

SALT LAKE CITY — Thousands of Utah students are heading back to school this week as the lion's share of school districts, colleges and universities open their doors for the 2012-13 academic year.

The administration of Butler Elementary in Cottonwood Heights rolled out a red carpet Monday for new and returning students. Children received high-fives from Butler's mascot, Boomer the Bobcat, and were cheered by faculty and staff as they entered the school on their first day.

"It's really cool," said third-grade student Sander Nelson.

Butler Elementary Principal Christy Waddell said the staff wanted to show students how important they were and to get them excited for the year.

"This is a celebration," she said. "It's a great way to start the year. I wish we could do this all the time."

While many parents welcome the relative calm after their children board the school bus, most Utah families are likely feeling the impact a new school year has on their wallets. This year, several school districts have raised the price of school lunch — by as much as a 53 percent increase for middle-schoolers in Salt Lake City School District — not to mention the extra fees are associated with parking permits, extracurricular sports and clubs.

In Granite School District, participation in a sports program can cost anywhere from $45 for tennis to $95 for football, according to the district fee schedule. Cheerleading and drill team carry a participation fee of $35, but that price does not include the uniforms selected by the individual school teams.

In Jordan School District, renting a musical instrument for band classes costs $80, a driver education course costs $95 and a high school yearbook in the spring will run students a tab of $42.75, according to the district fee schedule.

Then there's the cost of back-to-school clothing and supplies. According to the National Retail Foundation, back-to-school shopping is the second-largest consumer event of the year, behind only the winter holiday season.

School shoppers in the U.S., including both K-12 and college students, are expected to spend $83 billion this year, according to the foundation's 2012 Back-To-School Spending Survey. The average parent with a child in kindergarten through 12th grade will spend $688.62 on back-to-school purchases, up from $603.63 in 2011.

The National Retail Foundation report also showed that parents' purchases are divided between clothing and electronic equipment. Nearly six out of every 10 parents — 59.6 percent — said they would be investing in some sort of electronic device, an increase from the 51.9 percent who planned to do so in 2011.

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Schools are also investing in electronics for students. Weber School District spent $125,000 to give a classroom set of iPads to each of its 28 elementary schools. District spokesman Nate Taggart said the district implemented a iPad pilot program at two elementary schools and decided to extend the program district-wide after seeing great results.

"It's a great educational tool," Taggart said. "Kids are used to using these devices now."

The district leased a total of 980 iPads, or approximately 35 for each school. Taggart said teachers will be able to decide what apps to use on the devices to supplement class curriculum.

E-mail: benwood@desnews.com