It looks like laundry day in the lobby of Riverside Middle School.
Three tables hold stacks of neatly folded jackets, shirts and gym shorts. There is one pair of shoes, lunchboxes and even a lone sandal.
As the year winds down, schools begin to resemble thrift shops. Coping with piles of lost and found is just part of the job for school officials.
"We have mounds of it," said Kay Sanders, North Columbia Elementary School's principal. "We'll carry it from classroom to classroom, hold it up and wave it, and of course, it doesn't belong to a single soul.
"If it hasn't been claimed in several weeks, it's hard to get anybody to even look at it."
The Columbia County school system recently developed a formal procedure for claiming lost-and-found items after money was found and turned in.
"The question was, 'What if nobody claims it, can I keep it?'" Assistant Superintendent William Morris said.
He turned to the Columbia County Sheriff's Office for advice, and a form was developed to document the discovery.
If the item is not claimed by the end of the semester, then it belongs to the finder.
Richmond County doesn't have a set policy or procedure but lets each school decide how to deal with the stuff, school system spokeswoman Mechelle Jordan said.
If there is a season for lost and found, it's spring. The lost-and-found stack grows exponentially when the weather warms and children shed their coats and sweaters.
Euchee Creek Elementary School Principal Wanda Golosky said her school has three garbage bags full of stuff.
After every attempt has been made to find an owner, the items are donated to charity.
"It's frustrating when you know there are children here who need coats," she said.
The school has large canisters at the end of every hall where found items are corralled - such as items left on the playground during recess. That's the first place pupils can look for lost items.
Sherry Loyal, the principal of Warren Road Elementary School, said her coat pile even includes a Harley Davidson jacket.
The problem, she said, could be avoided if parents would write the child's name on coats, hats, scarves and gloves.
The most unusual item in her school's stack might be the smallest one - a pair of boy's blue underwear.
"How did this get in the lost and found?," Mrs. Loyal said. "Who's walking around with no underwear? I just don't know how it even got there."
Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, ext. 113 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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