Tonight comes the first chance for parents of Cape Girardeau public school students to hear firsthand from the district's dress code committee why they believe a uniform policy should be adopted at the beginning of the next school year.
I've noticed on the Facebook group Parents who want a voice regarding the Uniform Policy for CGPS that traffic has increased steadily as the time for the forum draws near.
Some parents or group participants are convinced a decision has already been made regarding uniforms--they say it will happen and that the parent surveys conducted by the committee had no real purpose. Some have concerns over the cost of uniforms for lower-income families. Others still want to see the district's current dress codes enforced and question why no records have been kept that can show how student dress is connected to discipline referrals, as was admitted to the school board by the dress code committee's chair.
I hope that parents with questions about the proposed uniform policy can find many answers in the reporting on this issue I've done thus far. Here I'll address as many questions as possible that I've seen posted on Facebook, or have heard during conversations with parents. Only through information sharing can we form well-rounded opinions about this issue and try to determine how a switch to uniforms could affect student life and learning.
I'll start with a few questions, and as I hear from readers today and later tonight from parents at the forum, more will be added.
Q: What is the school going to do if a child shows up and doesn't have the uniform?
A: This is a question posed by several parents on Facebook and through email to me, as well as by Central High School principal Dr. Mike Cowan. The dress code committee told the school board during the Dec. 19 special work session that there could be an exception made for a pre-determined number of days after a new student's enrollment that would give them and their family time to purchase the items required under the proposed policy. The first draft of the proposal states that amount of time would be five days.
Q: Why only use four colors of shirts (black, orange, gray or white) in the proposed policy when most other schools with uniform policies allow more colors?
A: The dress code committee discussed which colors to allow when writing the proposal, according to chair Carla Fee, the principal of the junior high.
Committee members say including every color of shirt could allow students to still set themselves apart from the rest of the pack, when what is desired with the uniform policy is a level playing field. A scenario given by the committee is that a group of students could all buy polos from Lands' End. Suppose that brand offered a particular shade of a color. You would end up with a group of girls who all wore a certain shade of magenta shirts on a Tuesday that not all students could afford. That wouldn't make for a level playing field, according to the committee.
Q: When will the school board vote on the proposal?
A: A tentative date for the school board to vote on the proposal is on Feb. 27 during a regular meeting of the board. School board president Stacy Kinder said the date was moved back from January to allow the board to have time to digest forum ideas and properly vet any policy changes with the Missouri School Board Association.
Tonight's public forum is set for 6 p.m. in the junior high auditorium.