DANVILLE — As Chuck Hoots walks the halls of Eisenhower High School in Decatur, he's pleased to see most of the students dressed in black, white or ash-gray polos, sweaters and sweatshirts and khaki or black pants.
It's the outfit they've been required to wear since the district implemented a uniform policy for its two high schools 2 years ago.
"The first year, year-and-a-half, we battled and battled the kids every day," said Hoots, who started as Eisenhower's principal in the 2011-12 school year and had the job of putting the stricter dress code in place. "It was very time-consuming to enforce. There was a lot of pushback, but now it's pretty well-accepted. The policy has been tweaked a couple of times, and it's working really well."
Earlier this year, the Danville school board approved going to a uniform standard of dress for all K-12 students, starting next school year.
Today, they will review in depth a proposed policy that will determine what students will wear.
"I would certainly expect some modifications to the original recommendation," Danville schools Superintendent Mark Denman said.
He said he hopes board members will come to consensus and approve the policy on April 23.
"I think it's important with a move like this ... to do it early enough so we can prepare families for the transition," he said.
Administrators unveiled a proposed policy in March. It was drafted with input from staff, students, parents and community members.
Under the proposal, students could wear a polo, dress shirt, turtlenecks, sweaters and sweatshirts in solid colors and dress pants, shorts, skirts and skorts in solid navy, black, gray, brown and tan. They wouldn't be allowed to wear T-shirts, hoodies, flannel or fleece tops, jeans, sweatpants, leggings, bib overalls or flip flops.
While no one was ready to sign off on the proposal, board members seemed divided about what they wanted. Some want more of a true uniform, with fewer colors of matching tops and bottoms. Others prefer flexible clothing options — including being able to wear jeans — as long as students look neat and professional.
Prior to adopting uniforms, students at Eisenhower and MacArthur high schools were allowed to wear their own clothes. Hoots said the then-superintendent proposed the more stringent dress code to improve the school climate and put the focus on academics.
The idea was "if kids were dressed a certain way, they would behave a certain way," Hoots said.
Like Eisenhower students, their MacArthur counterparts wear collared shirts in their school colors — royal blue, white and gray — and khaki or black pants. Hoots said officials later found the original policy was too restrictive and hard to enforce.
For example, "the color of belt. It was a little more restrictive on shoes," he said. "Those things were changed. ... We didn't care what color the belt was, as long as they wore a belt.
"We also lightened up on jackets. At one time, there could be no logos. But those were very difficult to find. We prefer them to have (jackets) with an Eisenhower logo or logo reflecting the school."
Hoots said students can't wear jeans or hoodies — clothing that not all Danville board members oppose.
"Honestly, that was the most difficult thing to enforce," Hoots said of hoodies. "Those are very popular with kids. We fought that and fought that. Now the kids are very cooperative and know what the expectations are."
Decatur schools officials said they're not aware of any recent move to return to the old dress code, and there are no plans to do that at this time.
Dress code talk
WHAT: Danville School Board meeting
WHEN: 6:30 p.m today
WHERE: Jackson Building, 516 N. Jackson St., Danville
Other agenda items
DANVILLE — Danville school board members today will decide whether to go forward with some much-needed building improvements, including making the high school's Circle Drive entrance handicapped-accessible.
The board will vote on whether to approve a contract with Duce Construction Co. for $73,400 to install a handicapped ramp at Circle Drive, one of Danville High's main entrances. The firm offered the lowest of four bids.
Buildings and Grounds Director Ron Henton said the project has a $10,000 allowance. So the total project, which also includes repairing and replacing stair treads in four areas in the school, could cost $83,400.
While the high school's Clock Tower entrance on the southwest corner of the complex is handicapped-accessible, Superintendent Mark Denman said it's some distance from main part of the building and the Dick Van Dyke Auditorium, where many school and community events are held.
The new ramp would be built off the north side of the drive. People will enter through a set of double doors leading to a science wing, go down a hallway and turn right and be in the main foyer in front of the auditorium.
The project would be funded with health/life safety funds.
Also at the meeting, board members will vote on whether to approve a bid for $339,131 to McDowell Brothers, Inc., to replace restroom plumbing fixtures and any required water lines at Cannon and Edison elementary schools. The firm offered the lowest of two base bids for the work, as well as two alternate bids for laying new resin flooring.
If the work is approved, Denman said it would be done over the summer.