Valley View Elementary in Columbia Heights researching uniforms for next school year
Board expected to vote on proposal in January
Valley View Elementary in Columbia Heights is exploring the option of establishing student uniforms for the 2013-14 school year.
Principal Willie Fort presented information to the School Board during its Nov. 27 meeting.
He said the idea of student uniforms was discussed during a question-and-answer session last April with 42 parents who had graduated from the REACH (Realizing Educational Achievement at Columbia Heights) program. The program includes seven weeks of classes that focus on what parents can do to make sure their children are ready for college.
Fort said he fielded a number of questions about uniforms. He said he told parents the choice to implement uniforms would not be his decision, but rather a decision that would be made by the School Board.
Valley View parents were invited to the next PTO meeting in May, which was attended by one representative on behalf of the parents who are interested in uniforms.
It was decided that May was too late in the school year to pursue the option. In August, staff was given an anonymous paper survey that asked if they would be in favor of uniforms for staff and students, in favor of uniforms for students only, or not in favor of uniforms for students.
Fort said the majority of staff expressed interest in student uniforms. A minimal number of responses were in favor of uniforms for both staff and students.
During an open house at the end of August, parents were given a paper survey offered in both English and Spanish that asked if Valley View should or should not adopt a uniform policy for students.
From Aug. 30 to Oct. 5, Connect-Ed calls (robo calls) were made to parents about returning the survey. Fort said about 90 percent of the 401 families responded to the survey, with 64 percent of families being in favor of uniforms.
Parents were invited to an informational meeting in late September via robo calls, email and invitations that were mailed home. About 40 parents attended the meeting, and everyone had an opportunity to share their thoughts and opinions.
Fort said one parent asked why uniforms were necessary at the elementary level, but most parents were very passionate about and strongly in favor of having their kids in uniforms. The consensus among those parents, he said, was that uniforms symbolize likeness and unity of oneness.
He added that some parents who support uniforms wore them growing up and have said uniforms distinguish their kids as being involved in school.
Fort said one parent whose children have been attending Columbia Heights Public Schools for more than 10 years mentioned there had been previous interest in uniforms among Valley View parents.
An advisory committee to work on preliminary fact-finding and research has been formed. It consists of seven parents, three staff members, and a parent who is also a staff member.
In early November, the committee met with Columbia Academy Principal Mary Bussman and social worker Cristina Dobon-Claveau about their experience with uniforms at the middle school, which began during the 2011-12 school year.
Fort said the next step would involve the advisory committee taking “more concrete steps” by beginning to make recommendations and formulate a timeline for the proposal, which would result in potential adoption by the School Board.
The committee will discuss uniform colors and how to make them more appealing to fifth-graders. Fort said a cost-saving measure might be to have the fifth-graders wear a uniform that has a Columbia Academy logo so they wouldn’t have to buy a Valley View uniform and then change to a Columbia Academy uniform the following school year.
He said he would like a decision to be made and in place by the spring so parents have enough time to plan financially if their kids will be required to be in uniform.
Open meetings on the topic would be scheduled throughout the remainder of the school year.
School Board member Keith Roberts said he likes the idea of having something different for the fifth-graders, which would help build the bridge between elementary school and middle school.
The consensus of the School Board is for the advisory committee to move forward with a proposal for uniforms.
Board Chair Missy Lee said she would like the board to be informed of the committee’s timeline, and Board member Ted Landwehr said he would like the board to see the reasons both for and against uniforms.
It’s important for the committee and the school to have adequate time to prepare for uniforms if they are approved by the board, said Supt. Kathy Kelly, so she proposed that an action item come before the board in January.
Landwehr asked if approval of uniforms at one elementary school would cause issues.
Supt. Kelly said the principals at the other two elementary schools don’t see it as a problem at this point in time, and there doesn’t seem to be a compelling group at either Highland or North Park that wants uniforms. She also pointed out the close proximity of Valley View to Columbia Academy.
Lee said if uniforms are approved at Valley View, it could be considered as a pilot initiative.