Danville schools seek input on uniforms

OK, Danville schools parents and students. Your school board decided that K-12 students will have a "uniform standard of dress" next year.

But you still have a chance to weigh in on what that standard will look like and cost, how the proposed policy will be implemented and what the sanctions for noncompliance will be.

Your first two chances to make suggestions, offer advice or ask questions are at the district's Ownership in Education Committee meetings.

The meetings are set for 6 p.m. today and Feb. 11 in the South View Middle School cafetorium, 133 E. Ninth St., Danville.

If you can't attend, you can still share your comments by emailing Associate Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat at desmoulinherats@danville.k12.il.us or by calling her at 444-1012.

Meade Park Elementary School Principal Mendy Spesard is also holding two forums on Feb. 13 to gather ideas from her parents. They are set for 4:30 p.m. at the Fair Oaks community room and 6 p.m. at Illini Skateland.

Here's what a handful of parents are saying:

Gretchen Yordy is the mother of a Danville High School student and North Ridge Middle School student. Her kids attended Northeast Elementary Magnet School, the only school in the district that now has uniforms.

Yordy, who didn't support expanding uniforms districtwide, said that deciding upon an outfit isn't as simple as choosing a shirt color.

"One of the key things they have to make sure is that the stores stock whatever is chosen," she said. "There were times when we had difficulty finding certain things. Boys' pants, for some reason, were hard to find."

While Yordy bought clothing online, she pointed out that not everyone has that ability. Some families don't have computers or Internet access.

"And some don't have washers or dryers at their home," said Yordy, who had to wash her kids' uniforms at least once midweek. "For someone who has to go to the laundromat, that's a big deal."

Yordy hopes they consider shirt colors that can hide stains. White shirts can also turn yellow or dingy after so many washes, she said.

She also hopes they students are allowed to wear white tennis shoes "or something that's easy to find." Northeast didn't allow shoes with logos of a certain size.

"It was difficult to meet the requirement, and shoes are not cheap," Yordy said. "Some kids need school shoes, gym shoes another type of shoe if they play a sport. If the requirements for those are all different, you're having to spend a lot of money just on shoes."

Ronda Scott has a first and third grader at Cannon Elementary School. She's in favor of the idea and would like to see students wear khaki pants or skirts, polo shirts or button-down shirts in their school colors and non-name-brand shoes.

"One, it's nice and neat. Two, it's very affordable. Three, it's easy to clean," she said. "They'll be dressing like they're going to their job, which, in their case, is school. I think it will help build self-esteem."

"And my son is autistic," Scott continued. "For him to have to pick out his clothes every morning was a big deal. This will make it easier for him. And if you don't wear top-notch clothes, other kids will talk about you."

Whatever outfit is chosen, Scott believes it's important that school officials enforce the policy. That means talking to students who don't follow the rules and their parents.

Patty and Mike Walters are parents of two Danville High School students and a North Ridge Middle School student. While the Walters wanted officials to enforce the current dress code, they came up with some ideas that they hope will be included in the new policy.

"It's a way to involve the students and, I don't think they'll have fun or get excited about them, but empower them," said Patty Walters, who plans to share a list of ideas at the Ownership in Education Committee meeting today.

The ideas: Hold "spirit days" on game days, and allow athletes to wear their team jersey and cheerleader's their uniform. Other students apparel with their school name, mascot or colors.

On early dismissal days, students who make a small donation could wear jeans that day. Schools can donate the money to a fund raiser or nonprofit organization.

Patty Walters would also like to see the district hold a T-shirt designing contest at every grade level. The winner would have his or her design put on shirts, which students could wear.

"It's just one more thing they could do to personalize the situation and still respect the rules," she said.

Holly Shuter has a daughter at East Park Elementary School and a son and daughter at Cannon. She and her husband, Melvin — who opposed any type of uniform — still haven't decided whether they will home-school their kids next year.

However, if the kids do return to school, Shuter would like to see them wear a T-shirt or polo in their school's colors and jeans.

"Little kids are hard on clothes," she said. "They need something long-lasting. And there are a lot of kids who aren't going to be comfortable in dress pants.

"Cannon's school colors are blue and gold, so they could get shirts in both colors and alternate what they wear. It will give individuality to each school, so you won't have everyone walking around like robots. I think it will also promote school spirit."

Most important, Shuter said, school officials should consider the cost.

"We're a one-income household," she said. "We can only spend $10 on one pair of jeans. They add up real fast."

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