2010-12-18 / Schools

Lakewood considering uniforms for students

By Scott Rawdon

HEBRON – Lakewood students’ wardrobes may look quite different soon.

Lakewood School Board President Joe Bowman, Jr. asked for a committee to look into a uniform school dress code during the Dec. 8 board meeting. Board member Rob Large volunteered to head that committee. The dress code would be for all students K through 12. “All schools in the district will be considered,” said Bowman. “The reason why is to foster school pride and eliminate any stereotypes with dress.”

Board members said students on free and reduced lunches who qualify for a school fee waiver may be entitled to assistance in paying for uniforms. Lakewood has 44 percent of its student body on free or reduced lunches.

Lakewood wouldn’t be the first area district to have a dress code. Johnstown High School Principal Kim R. Jakeway said implementing a dress code was one of the best things to happen to his school. “I would never go back,” he said.

Jakeway said in 2008 he had seven to 10 dress code violations daily. Violations were mainly short skirts and boys whose pants were low enough to show tops of underwear. He said the former rule simply prohibiting shirts with writing or pictures was failing.

“We had 975 dress code violations that year,” said Jakeway. He met with Reynoldsburg Schools, which already had a code in place, and saw that it was working there. He was sold, but even his own staff wasn’t at first. “I had 70 percent against it,” said Jakeway. He organized four community forums for public input. The public was also against it at first. However, Jakeway said as the forums progressed, fewer and fewer people attended as they accepted the advantages, or at least the inevitability, of a school dress code. A high school dress code was put in place August 19, 2009, and next year Adams Middle School will have a similar dress code.

He said there was some grumbling among high school students initially, but nothing like rebellion. The change was smooth. But, he really doesn’t consider Johnstown’s dress code – called “Jonnie Wear” after the district’s sports teams – to be a “uniform” per se. “Everybody wears our colors,” said Jakeway.

The code allows for khaki, black, or navy blue Dockers or dress-type pants (no leg pockets and they can’t drag on the floor), and similarly colored and material shorts, skirts, skorts, and jumpers that at least touch the top of the knee. Shirts may be solid colors of red, grey, white, or black with buttons and collars (turtlenecks may be worn beneath buttoned shirts), tucked in, and no more than the two top buttons unbuttoned. Sweatshirts must be solid colors of red, grey, white, or black and hoodies are prohibited. Belts must be worn with pants, shorts, or skirts that have loops.

Jakeway said the district raised roughly $3,000 to help families who had trouble affording new clothes for their children to comply with the code. Students who qualify for aid can order clothes online through Robert Renee apparel in Mount Vernon. He said students are allowed to accessorize their uniforms to a reasonable extent. “The dress code really does make a big difference,” said Jakeway. “I would do anything to promote this.” He said the district has occasional “dress down” days to raise money for charities and for dress code compliant clothing for families in need. “I guess Lakewood could call it ‘Lancer Wear,’” said Jakeway.

In other school board news:

• Director of Pupil Services Arnie Ettenhofer told board members that since changing to the “Reading Street” districtwide reading program for grades K-5 in 2005-2006, the district is seeing the results of this program in its assessments. “The consistency piece is very critical proof,” he said. For the most part, Lakewood’s reading assessments generally improved since implementing “Reading Street,” and often above the state average.

Ettenhofer said when elementary students were separated between schools, each school had its own reading program. He said placing all K-5 students are on the same reading program has helped with academic consistency and has shown overall improvement in reading assessments.

“Adding the (measures of aca- demic progress) benchmark assessments in 2009-2010 in grades K-5 is also creating more focus on monitoring student progress and allowing instruction to be refined based on those results,” said Ettenhofer. “We are investigating adding (measures of academic progress) to middle school grades and some high school.”

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