Uniforms gaining support Getting dressed: Parents and Arundel school officials hope school uniforms will increase discipline and the focus on learning.

August 30, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Usually, swaggering fifth-graders rule the halls during the first week of classes at Fort Smallwood Elementary School, and few of the students have much in common.

But this year, about half the 372 students at the Poplar Ridge school shared something: a new school uniform.

"I find there's a widespread acceptance of the uniforms," said Principal Thomas Johnson. "The younger children are buying into it, and so are the older ones."

For the boys, a white or navy polo shirt with khaki or navy shorts is favored. The girls can wear similar outfits or plaid jumpers or skirts with white blouses.

In winter, long-sleeved polo shirts or turtlenecks may replace short-sleeved shirts.

"It's pretty, and I've got two more," said kindergartner Katelyn O'Connor of her jumper and blouse.

The uniforms are part of an optional policy the school's Citizens Advisory Committee adopted last spring after about 70 percent of the parents responding to a survey said they favored uniforms, said Virginia Barrett, one of those who sent out the survey.

"We heard that there were a lot of studies that said that uniforms increase the focus on learning and increase discipline," she said. "We're hoping we'll achieve that."

Jane Jett, Barrett's partner in the drive for uniforms, said she hopes they will eliminate competition in clothes among students.

"I'm hoping that it fosters an atmosphere in which our kids can be a unit," said Jett. Her children, Zach, a fifth-grader, and Caitlin, a second-grader, wear the outfits.

"We want them to concentrate on their school work and not think 'Oh, I want the shirt that he has.' "

The children also may wear a red polo shirt with the navy shorts -- the school colors -- Johnson said.

"It builds camaraderie," he said. "I see it as a positive school spirit issue."

Some parents are thrilled because they don't have to spend as much money for school clothes.

Ed Piaskowski, who said he cut in half his child's back-to-school clothing costs, called the uniforms "the best thing in the world."

But the reaction is mixed among those wearing them.

"I'm not crazy about them," said Allison Swindle, a fourth-grader. "There's too much plaid, and I don't like plaid too much."

But her brother Brian, who is in first grade, said the uniforms are "pretty cool."

"I like dressing up," he said.

"You can't play in them," complained Samantha Kemp, a fifth-grader. "They're too long."

Jett said such comments are to be expected. But she predicted that the children would accept the uniforms and parents would buy them. "A lot of parents are waiting to see how many kids are wearing them before they go out and purchase them ," Jett said. "Give it some time."

Pub Date: 8/30/96

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