Danville school parents find some uniform clothes in short supply
DANVILLE — Kim Dandridge thought shopping for back-to-school clothes for her children would be a breeze this year.
After all, how hard could finding a few solid-colored polo shirts and pairs of khaki slacks be?
"She found what she wanted pretty easily," Dandridge said, nodding toward her daughter, a slender Danville High sophomore, as the teen browsed the accessories aisle at Walmart.
"But my step-daughter is plus size, so she's harder to shop for," Dandridge said. "I had to go all the way to Indianapolis before I found something that would fit her, and it still doesn't fit her right."
Laura Withers, who was also shopping at Walmart earlier this week, said she's seeing a lot of collared shirts in all of the acceptable colors. But they're not the right sizes for her sons, who'll be in the seventh and third grades.
"School starts in a few weeks," Withers said. "I'm hoping they'll get more shipments in."
Managers of area retail stores said they've been getting shipments of fall clothing items that meet Danville schools' new uniform standard of dress the last few weeks, and putting them in easy-to-find locations. Restore stores have been doing the same with their donated items.
The school district provided stores with large posters that spell out the dress code requirements to hang by their clothing displays.
"In case parents have any questions," Associate Superintendent Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat said, adding that stores also have the information on fliers that students and parents can take with them.
The same information, along with pictures of store displays, is available on the district's website and will be handed out to parents at registration, starting next week.
"We started working with all of our local merchants last spring ... to make sure our students would have the clothing they need," Desmoulin-Kherat said. "We've had very good cooperation with them. They have gone above and beyond to make sure they have the inventory ... and that their displays are at the front of the store and visible to families."
Last winter, the school board approved adopting a districtwide uniform standard of dress to improve the school climate. It finalized the specific clothing items — which don't include jeans, sweatshirts and sweatpants, except on special occasions — in April.
Parents say they've been on the lookout for items at rummage sales and store sales this summer. The serious back-to-school shopping started a few weeks ago.
"The last three weeks have been a frenzy," said Gayle Shirley, a Walmart zone merchandise manager over apparel. "It's gotten pretty low at times. But we get a truck every evening, and we're getting something on every truck and putting it out on the floor."
Shirley said the store carries a wide range of sizes. And what shoppers can't find at the store, they can order online.
"I think they have a good variety and some of the lowest prices," said Kelly Nash, who was shopping for her daughter, a high school junior.
Shirley said prices are as low as $6 for kids' polos and $13 for kids' pants, but are more expensive for older students.
Some parents say they've had a harder time finding clothing at Carson's. That's because most of the department store's fall goods just came in, an official said.
"We're trying to point things out to them," selling supervisor Carol Runyan said.
While clothing runs a little higher than the discount stores — about $15 per shirt and $35 for pants — Runyan said shoppers can get 25 and 30 percent discounts with coupons.
"You could probably get a two-piece outfit for around $25 or $30" with them, she said.
Runyan also said people can go online to find items the store doesn't carry, such as long-sleeve polos.
Parents can find the cheapest prices at second-hand stores such as Goodwill, Y's Buys and the Danville Humane Society's thrift store. The only problem: limited quantities.
"We've had a lot of people coming in for school uniforms," said Goodwill manager Cary Matthews, who set up a couple of racks at the front of the store.
Children's shirts and pants go for $1.95, while adult sizes are $3.49, Matthews said. And every week, he added, employees go around marking various items at half price.
Jodie Brown said she's almost finished shopping for her three kids, who attend Cannon School, South View Middle School and Danville High, and she's managed to find nearly everything at second-hand stores. She bought a few new shirts for about $5 apiece at Walmart and Old Navy.
"I even found a pair of used skinny jeans for my (high school-aged) son, so he's happy now," said Brown, who was shopping at Goodwill recently. "I've been able to save a lot of money now that they've gone to uniforms. Before, my kids wanted the name-brand clothes, so I had to buy them new."
Desmoulin-Kherat said parents will have a chance to buy polo shirts in their child's school color for about $5. They will be available at registration.
The district is also partnering with Fair Hope Children's Ministry to collect new and/or gently-used clothing donations in all sizes to start clothing closets at the schools.
Organizers Karel Volpert and Betty Seidel placed clothing bins at their organization's headquarters, at 911 N. Bowman Ave., the Jackson Building for all the schools. The drive starts today and runs through Aug. 22.
Principals said teachers, social workers and other staff are also collecting clothes.
"We hope it builds up over time," North Ridge Middle School Principal Chris Rice said. If students come to school without a particular item, staff can take them to the closet and get what they need "rather than sending them home. We want them staying in school, and that will be our top priority."