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Schools will be uniform with new dress code policy

The county’s school board has made its decision for a change.
Now through December the board will finalize the parameters of the system-wide switch to a school uniform policy in 2010-2011.
The discussions between school stakeholders, board members and administrators over the weeks until the scheduled Dec. 14 monthly meeting are expected to involve such items as clothes color schemes and length of girls’ skirts, if that is adopted an acceptable piece of the mandatory apparel.
But no matter how the new policy evolves, it will be up to each of the three individual schools to enforce the measures.
“It will be harder to pick a student out of a crowd,” said Brett Warren, the high school principal of 800 students, about the uniform policy that will create a sea of like-dressed students.
The school uniform policy, announced by the board at its Sept. 14 meeting, will go into effect with the first day of school for the 2010-2011 year for pre-kindergarten to 12th graders.
A new dress code may not be the only change for the school system next year as board members have shown interest in a shorter school year and a four-day school week. The BOE has not agreed to such calendar changes as other school districts in the state, but it has voted for a version of a school uniform.
Warren said that thus far the high school teachers’ comments to him about the adaptation to a school uniform policy have been positive. The SCHS principal said those teachers who talked to him about the change to uniforms are parents of school-aged children.
“I have school-aged children and it doesn’t bother me,” said Warren, a father of three boys, about the 2010-2011 dress code.
A committee will be appointed to solicite input from stakeholders.
Changing the dress code does not dismiss students from wearing the clothing appropriately.
“You are going to chase the shirttails and the pants being up,” Warren said. “We get dress code violators every day. You always have someone who wants to fight the system.”
School officials project that students not dressed in the school uniform will be required to visit an on-campus closet for apparel. If the students decide not to wear clothes from the community hamper, they will be sent home.
This wear the uniform or leave campus is a part of the Effingham County policy.
“I think eventually we will build up the clothes bank,” Warren said. “Students who aren’t dressed right, then we will have them dress right. If they don’t dress right, they won’t go to school.
”They will have to comply,” Warren said of the students.
The teachers’ dress code also is expected to be tweaked, but not to the extent of school uniforms. Although not projected as a mandate, Warren said some educators might decide for a uniform for themselves because it alleviates the daily selection of clothing.
Jim Thompson, the middle school principal, said SCMS also will follow the policy guidelines decided upon by the board.
“Here at the middle school, I have been pretty pleased in how the current dress code has worked,” Thompson said of the current policy that includes polo shirts. “I understand why the board would want to adopt a uniform policy and I know all the administrators will come up with a good policy. We will try to implement a policy that is acceptable to the board and people.”
Thompson said he was pleased with his visit to an Effingham County middle school that has students in uniforms.
“There looked like there was good compliance throughout,” Thompson said. “It didn’t seem to be a problem (with the uniforms) and the administration was pleased with the results they had gotten from them.
“They felt it was beneficial to the school,” he said. “The schools we visited believe it has been a positive.”
Thompson said the objective of the school system is to keep the focus on education.
Screven County Elementary School principal Becky Martin said no matter what the new policy may detail students still will need to wear the appropriately sized clothes.
“We will be fine with it,” Martin said.
“I will support the board’s decision. They thoroughly believe that it will help,” Martin said. “I feel the board must have support for it.”
Martin said that occasionally the school will have a student dressed in an inappropriate shirt, but the biggest problem is shirttails not tucked in for third, fourth and fifth graders.
For the first years of the school uniform policy, brothers and sisters will not be able to make use of their older siblings’ clothes, she said.
“I have a little bit of concern about some our families being able to afford the uniforms because they don’t have hand-me downs,” Martin said.
The SCES principal also said identical school uniforms each day of the school week will alleviate the “issues of ‘What am I going to wear today.’”