School dress code committee: Uniforms will be cheaper after policy's first year

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Family budgets weighed on the committee examining dress codes for the Cape Girardeau School District. The committee members wanted to ensure local families could afford the clothes specified in a stricter dress code.

According to the committee that wrote the proposal, uniforms will be a cheaper option for families, especially after the first year of a new policy.

During discussions of the proposal, which was presented in first draft to the school board Monday night, committee members said there are answers to concerns that uniforms will cost too much.

The committee collected pricing information for student uniforms from local retailers and wholesalers.

Prices for items in the proposed uniform policy ranged from $4.75 to $9.25 per item from wholesalers and from around $8 anywhere up to around $50 per item depending on the retailer.

The proposed dress code requires students wear a polo or oxford shirt in certain colors, tucked in with a brown or black belt and khaki or black pants, shorts, skirts, jumpers and skorts within certain length. Certain sweaters and leggings would be accepted.

The committee wants to set up uniform closets at each of the district's buildings and have uniforms available for purchase at school orientations and events to make the switch more affordable.

"We found when looking at the cost that uniforms are cheaper, especially after the first year of setting up clothes closets or swap events at schools, which a lot of private schools do," said Carla Fee, principal of Cape Girardeau Central Junior High School and head of the committee. Using that method could allow families to pick up clothing for between $2 and $4 for each piece, she said.

Committee members said they discussed arranging and managing uniform closets in each building with the help of volunteers. The district would also likely attempt to work with some community assistance agencies to provide some of the initial uniforms for closets and keep them stocked with uniforms donated by students outgrowing items or graduating.

Misty Clifton, the district's chief financial officer who also serves on the committee, said they also discussed placing a volunteer committee in each building to be in charge of checking to see if cleaning and organizing of uniforms needed to be done.

Fee said schools could work with parent liaisons and school social workers to determine which families need help. Liaisons and social workers already help determine when students are in need of other forms of assistance.

Under the proposal, incentive programs could be offered for students who choose to donate their uniforms at the end of their time in the school district.

"For example, at Caruthersville, seniors who turn in their uniforms during the last week of school can wear a shirt tucked into jeans with a belt, and that way more uniforms are available for students who can't afford them," she said.

Nancy Jernigan, executive director of the United Way of Southeast Missouri, said she is in favor of a change to uniforms because of the possible benefits to the school environment and can see that it would be possible for community organizations and local churches to help provide uniforms for closets. However, she said she believes the district also needs to survey students on a switch to uniforms.

"They deserve an opinion," she said.

The district surveyed parents and faculty on the possible implementation of a stricter dress code for the 2012-2013 school year and used findings from the faculty survey when writing the proposal.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

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