WATERTOWN — Angela Ludlow isn’t quite ready to give a passing grade to back-to-school shopping this year.

With a handful of shopping bags already in hand, she spent a good portion of Monday afternoon with her three kids at the Salmon Run Mall, looking for bargains on clothing and sneakers.

There’s a good amount of uncertainty about returning to school because of COVID-19 and the more infectious delta variant and whether her three children, students at Indian River School, will end up going to school five days a week, she said.

With COVID cases rising again, she’s taking a cautionary approach about how much she buys.

“We’re getting a little bit now and a little bit later,” she said.

All she knows in the end: she’ll spend “way too much money.”

Like children across the north country, her three children — Majesta, 11; Briana, 12; and Bryson, 7 — will be returning to the classroom next week.

Earlier on a muggy Monday afternoon, traffic at the mall was slow to begin with as more shoppers showed up looking for the best bargains as the day wore on.

Karla Woods, mall marketing manager, said retailers started the back-to-school shopping season a month ago, but the number of shoppers have especially increased during the last two or three weeks.

Stores also have been able to hire more employees during that time, while many businesses in the area continue to experience labor shortages.

The mall also is hosting a “Back to School Bonanza” from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, with several non-profit organizations, vendors, and merchants joining in on the fun with informational tables, interactive displays and giveaways to help kids get back to school.

While that’s going on, Joe and Shannon Weeks are preparing for their daughter, kindergartner Willa, to start school in Carthage next week. They were looking for jeans and socks during their shopping trip at the mall and already bought a “Frozen” backpack for her.

But they still have to find masks for her and her brother, Lyric, 11. The state is requiring that children have face coverings at school.

“They’re in short supply,” she said.

Rebecca Shaefer plans to spend between $600 and $700 for school clothes for her three children but was happy to hear that the Lowville school district will provide school supplies for them.

“That’s a huge cost savings,” she said.

With just a week left in summer vacation, Majesta and Briana Ludlow look forward to going back to school next week. Majesta is excited to see her friends again, while Briana just wants “to look good.”

Bryson Ludlow would rather see summer go on.

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Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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