There is spring, fall, winter, summer and “back-to-school.” Yes, it appears there are now five seasons to the calendar. Though the “back-to-school” season has not yet been designated as a solstice or equinox, it can be as much a life changing experience as marriage or parenthood.

The most visible indicator that the back-to-school season is upon us is the start of “football two a days” but the back-to-school season genuinely begins with the deluge of retailers’ back-to-school promotions immediately following July 4. Back-to-school season may in fact be joining Christmas, Easter and Mother’s Day in economic significance for retailers. Not to be outdone, the politicians have gotten swept into the frenzy with the creation of the sales tax holiday ostensibly designed to fan the spending fires, though from the lines in some store’s checkout lines it would appear the fires need no fanning.

Getting new “school stuff” is not new. As far back as at least 50 years ago getting a new pair of blue jeans, a Roy Rogers T-shirt and a flannel shirt for winter was almost as big a spending spree as one could expect for Christmas. However, the crayons, lead pencils, writing tablets and erasers of yesteryear have now given way to back-to-school shopping lists that include cell phones, phone cards, Internet hookups, knapsacks and yes, even cars. After all if your teenage jock or jockette is going to be involved in the ever increasing myriad of after school activities that now comprise the contemporary educational experience they need wheels… fast, colorful and sexy wheels. By the time all of the new age accoutrements have been purchased, few dollars remain for books, slide rules or real learning tools.

One can only imagine that very soon back-to-school shopping will extend to buying a second home so Sonny and Missy can become even more acclimated to the real world.

Back-to-school also means re-acclimating life’s priorities from the laid back leisure of summer to the rigid realities of schedules… bus schedules, practice schedules, class schedules, social schedules, football schedules and the renewed familiarity with the alarm clock those schedules imply.

The changes blown in with the back-to-school winds spill over to The Bulletin as well. Our priorities change significantly. Though we seem never to get every worthy student’s name or photo in the paper, it’s the goal of your community newspaper to do so. Honor roles, team photos, game action shots, debate teams, band and cheerleading competitions and all the rest become the central focus of newsroom schedules and coverage assignments. Late games dictate deadlines and production schedules can create delivery time challenges.

Back-to-school actually creates a seasonal newspaper route… NEWSPAPERS IN EDUCATION or NIE.

At the Bulletin, we seek to create the most up to date and currently modified daily textbook available to teachers. We make that textbook available at no cost to teachers and count on the support of civic groups, businesses, individuals and fund raising activities to underwrite it.

The NIE program has grown each year and continues to do so. Teachers who use newspapers in their classrooms once almost always renew their “subscriptions.” We invite teachers to “use us” again this year. Teachers, to order NIE papers for your classroom call or e-mail us, or watch for the order blanks in most day’s edition of the Bulletin.

So, with the back-to-school “season” upon us, here’s to hoping your football team is still playing at Thanksgiving, your kindergartner gets on the correct bus coming home and you mamas sending your babies off to school for the first time have enough Kleenex in your back-to-school shopping bag to get you through the first day’s Niagara Falls of tears that are sure to be shed with the realization that the next rite of passage has been met.

John Kliebenstein is circulation and operations manager of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Tuesdays. E-mail him at john.kliebenstein@brownwoodbulletin.com.