Masks are a popular item for back-to-school shoppers this year (Jessica Smith / CTV News Kitchener)

After a March break that extended into the summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, kids are finally heading back to school.

Whether learning in a classroom or virtually, school supplies are still a must.

Some local stores are noticing a significantly later start to the traditional back to school shopping season.

"We used to start with the back to school rush end of June, beginning of July and we're seeing now is this is the latest it's ever happened," said Carla Muller, owner of Baby Charlotte in Kitchener.

Muller says mask are of course a hot ticket item, but now it is all about the aesthetic.

"The thing that the kids are wanting is cool masks that they can wear to school and feel like they're not compromising too much of their own style,” said Muller.

According to Cindy Knoll with Children's Marketplace in Waterloo, they have seen educational materials flying off the shelves.

“Our book section has been going very, very fast. We get a lot of great book sets and a lot of great resources for teachers and parents,” said Knoll.

One trend Knoll said she has noticed so far is parents getting ready for kids to be sent home again.

“A lot of parents that last few weeks are still maybe confused what they're doing, so they're definitely grabbing stuff for home schooling or doing things at home just in case because they're just not totally sure yet,” said Knoll.

For some parents with kids heading back into the classroom, back-to-school shopping in the era of COVID-19 means scaling way back.

“I think it's made us think more in terms of streamlining things, keeping it simple for the kids so they can focus on learning the new routines at school,” said Kristen Lautenbach, a parent and resident of Waterloo.

For some families keeping the kids at home, it also means a much shorter shopping list

“The only thing I need to go do is get a few computers that the school usually provides like they did when COVID happened. Other than that I don’t need to rush out and get all of those things so that’s a bit of a saving," said Ashley Lehunewycz, a parent from Puslinch.

According to a recent Deloitte survey, back-to-school shopping for students in kindergarten to Grade 12 averages out at roughly $1,000 per child. It remains to be seen what the 2020 tab will be.