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- Tanker truck catches fire near Oak Ridge (04/24/16)7
- Local lawmakers split over failed medical marijuana bill; voters may have a say (04/26/16)19
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Cape schools prepare for enforcing new dress code
Lists of classroom supplies aren't the only guides Cape Girardeau public school students and parents are looking to as they prepare to return to classes in less than a month. The first day back this year may require some extra checks in the mirror.
A new student dress code will be enforced Aug. 16 when classes resume. No more saggy pants, sandals or sleeveless shirts will be allowed. Students in all grades will instead be expected to adhere to a much-debated policy passed by the school board in February.
Administrators say they are trying to communicate with parents and students about the new rules as much as possible to avoid interruptions in the first weeks of the school year.
How to best enforce the new rules has already or soon will be discussed among staff in all school buildings, said Deena Ring, director of special services in the district.
"That's going to be a big topic," Ring said, but she added that she and other staff hope back-to-school events between now and the first day of school will help.
Central High School students will be asked to wear clothing that adheres to the code when they attend orientation events Aug. 6, 7 and 8, according to principal Mike Cowan, and will be told they are expected to wear the appropriate clothing from the first day of school forward.
"I think I speak for all the building principals when I say I don't want any well-intentioned student caught off guard when they show up wearing the wrong thing the first day," Cowan said.
The dress code requires that students wear the following: a collared shirt or turtleneck in any solid color, a school-oriented T-shirt, sweatshirt or hoodie or a solid-colored vest, sweater, sweatshirt or pullover with an approved shirt underneath; and pants, shorts, capris, skorts and jumpers in any solid color, or blue jeans or a solid-color dress with sleeves, a collar or a high-crew neck.
Logos will be allowed on clothing as long as they are smaller than 1 1/2 inches, and various requirements apply to fit, style and condition of clothing items and accessories. Belts must be worn by middle through high school students.
A main point of argument for parents, school staff and community members during the debate over a dress code last winter was that not all students' families could afford to buy new clothes that would meet requirements. Administrators have promised to stock a "clothes closet" in each school building to help, and a clothes drive that begins Monday will culminate in a distribution event at Central Junior High School.
"We need donations. Need 'em, need 'em," said Ring, who is organizing both events.
New or slightly used appropriate clothing will be collected at the central administrative office from Monday through Friday this week. Clothes will then be distributed to students who come to the junior high field house between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. July 31 or Aug. 1. Three tops and two bottoms are the maximum number of items each student will be allowed to take, Ring said, and items that are not taken will be split between the schools to stock clothes closets.
"The only reason we are limiting how many they can take at this time is because this is our first try for this and we want to reach as many people as we can the first time around," Ring said.
Students who cannot find clothing that fits appropriately or do not receive the number of items they need will receive help getting the items before the start of school by a district social worker or parent liaison, Ring said.
Parents had varied opinions so far on how their search for clothes is going and how much they are spending compared to previous school years.
Becky Stull, whose daughter will start eighth grade at the junior high, said she has had a hard time finding clothes that are the right fit according to the code while staying on budget. She and her daughter have had the most luck at a St. Louis resale store, she said. They will keep searching, she said.
"Pretty much, we just look for what we need every time we go in any store lately," she said. "It's getting a little frustrating."
Amber Surface's 9-year-old daughter Leigha, a Jefferson Elementary student, has most of her clothes for the next school year already, Surface said, and she spent about the same amount on clothes as last year.
"They are a little harder to find because of the specifications," Surface said, "but we ended up doing pretty good because we found some sales."
Uptick in business
Management of local retail and thrift stores say they have seen an increase in people looking for dress code-appropriate clothing the past few weeks.
"We've had some people in asking," said Elizabeth Hileman, manager of Safe House for Women Thrift Store in Cape Girardeau.
Hileman said store employees saw the same thing last summer as the Scott City School District was preparing to move to a dress code.
Mary Kirn, owner of KidStop in Cape Girardeau, which sells uniform items to several area private schools, said there have been many public school students and families visiting the store and making purchases.
"We're doing very well with school uniforms," she said.
She said she expects business to pick up even more with Missouri's sales tax holiday next month.
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