Hundreds of elementary school children will find themselves choosing between solids or plaids this fall when they become the first Anne Arundel County public school students to wear uniforms.
With little discussion, the county school board yesterday gave the go-ahead to several schools interested in having their students wear uniforms.
Nancy W. Almgren, vice chairwoman of the Countywide Citizens Advisory Council, a parent group that advises the school board, said the group suggested the program because the school dress code seemed to have gotten out of control.
"I think this is a very positive step all the way around," she said. "The children will buy into this if we let them participate in picking out the uniform. And they're tired of the conflicts over clothes."
Parents at Linthicum, Quarterfield and Windsor Farm elementaries already have told school officials they would like their children to wear uniforms. Groups at Park Elementary and Magothy River Middle schools also have been discussing having uniforms.
The board did not have to vote on the uniform pilot program because school money won't be spent on it. However, the board did direct interested school administrators to discuss the program with parents.
Mrs. Almgren said a set of school uniforms would cost $50 to $150 "for the full preppie look."
"We're advising parents at the first three elementary schools not to go out and spend a lot right now on next year's clothes," she said. "We'll have a meeting with parents at the beginning of the school year, and they can decide then if they definitely want to do it. If they do, the kids can be in uniforms by mid-fall."
While the board had no problem deciding on uniforms, there was some indecision on whether 30 kindergarten students at Crofton Woods Elementary School should learn their first lessons in French instead of English.
At first, the idea died on a 4-3 vote; five votes are needed for approval. Later, however, board member Michael A. Pace resurrected the idea and won permission for the program to proceed if the school system can raise $20,000 from the private sector.
The French immersion program will cost nearly $72,000 the first year, including $35,000 to pay a bilingual teacher fluent in French, and $6,000 for training, $4,500 for books and classroom materials and $3,000 to translate the curriculum from English to French.
Audrey Spolorich, who wanted her daughter, Veronica, to participate in the immersion program, left the meeting feeling dejected after the board's initial vote.
"It wasn't a trade-off between something exotic and money for other things," she said at the time. "It's a question of whether the school system's going to move forward. I'm wondering what else we are doing in the way of new initiatives."
When notified by telephone of the board's change of heart, Mrs. Spolorich said, "I think that's an excellent idea."
"As I was driving home from the board meeting, I got to thinking about whether they had approached anybody about corporate sponsorship," she said. "I really don't see how it could be a problem to raise $20,000."
In other action, the school board ratified a contract with the Association of Educational Leaders, which represents principals and school administrators. The two-year contract provides no raise, and marks the end of negotiations with two of four employee unions. The school board and the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County are at an impasse. No contract has been signed with the Secretaries and Assistants Association of Anne Arundel County, which represents school secretaries and teaching assistants.