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Ferris School Board tables issue of uniforms

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Ellis County Press
FERRIS - Parents had hoped for a decision before the end of this school year concerning possible uniforms at the elementary campus for 2000-01.

'Parents would like a decision before the end of the school year so they could plan for it during the summer,' said Randee Erickson of the Ferris Elementary School Parents/Teachers Organization. 'Parents are frustrated their voices aren't being heard.'

Unless the Ferris Independent School District Board of Trustees was to call a special meeting, parents won't know until the next regular scheduled session June 20, which would be after the current school year.

FISD Board members voted unanimously to table the agenda item during their recent regular meeting Tuesday night, May 16 at its administration building.

At the previous meeting April 25, the board and Erickson agreed she would conduct a survey with parents voting for or against possible uniforms for the younger grades.

Erickson said each parent was allotted one vote per child attending the elementary campus.

She said 371 parents cast votes. There were 270 in favor of uniforms with 101 opposing. Percentage-wise it was 73 percent for to 27 percent against.

'Some parents said if the you did it district-wide they would be for uniforms,' Erickson said. 'As a school board they [parents] voted for you in good faith and you would do what the majority wanted.'

Trustee Thomas Griffith said the state required the district to buy uniforms for students financially unable to purchase the new clothes.

Superintendent Larry Hairgrove said the elementary school was 'the largest at-risk' school for the district to have to provide uniforms for needy children.

Seventy-three percent of the 552 students enrolled at the elementary school participated in the free-lunch program.

'Many of that 73 percent want this,' Erickson said.

Board President Duane Yee said he didn't realize the number participating in the elementary school's free-lunch program was so high.

'I thought it was around 10 or 15 percent,' he said.

One Hispanic parent asked trustees not to let the cost of uniforms affect their decision regarding implementing such as the dress code at the elementary school. She said even among poor conditions in Mexico school children there donned uniforms.

'I speak on behalf of the Hispanic community,' she said. 'Our goal is our children be educated. We ask you to be in favor of school uniforms.'

Erickson said there could be an 'adopt-a-child' program where parents could purchase uniforms for other children along with their own kids.

She said uniforms could possibly be bought wholesale.

'We could have a room set aside like a thrift store,' Erickson said.

She said Dillard's top brand name was $30 per uniform.

Trustee Wayne Jones pointed out, 'Those little kids are growing.'

Erickson said $30 was the maximum cost.

'That's not Wal-Mart, Target or Dollar General,' she said.

Erickson said stores were equipped with extra-large sizes.

She said the proposed uniforms would consist of Polo or Oxford-style shirts in solid colors of white, yellow, blue and red. Erickson said girls could wear Peter Pan blouses. She said tops would be plain without insignias, except for those promoting the FISD.

Erickson said boys would wear blue khaki pants. Girls could wear jumpers or skorts. She said jeans wouldn't be permitted.

'Parents can put re-enforcements on the inside of the knees,' Erickson said of boys' pants.

'Outer wear for cold weather has not been mandated yet.'

Hairgrove said students could be excused from wearing uniforms for religious beliefs and philosophical differences. He said philosophical differences had to be approved.

Haigrove said there was a lawsuit ending in another school district concerning a student's refusal or being forced to wear a uniform.

'I'd hate to do anything to take focus away from students such as lawsuits,' Hairgrove said.

'Uniforms may be beneficial, I don't know,' Yee said.

'I don't like taking away freedom of what I can wear,' Jones said. 'It's sort of like putting me in prison. Then I've had parents tell me they wouldn't have to worry about what they [their kids] wear every day.'

'The dress code as it is now takes away students' liberties,' Erickson said.

Griffith said he would like to consult with other school districts.

'I'd like for the other board members to be here,' Trustee Lee Longino said.

Trustees not present were Robert Scott Jr., Lori Newton and Bobby Lindsey.

'A lot of teachers have been involved in this,' Erickson said. 'Teachers have said they will dress in uniforms.'

'All of us want to do what's right and what's best for the district,' Yee said. 'Twenty-seven percent don't want uniforms. That's why we're in a dilemma.'

'The uniform dress code would be easier to enforce,' Erickson said.

'Like Lee [Longino] said, I'd like to get the other board members [Scott, Newton and Lindsey] here to get their feelings,' Yee said. 'I'd like to gather more data.'

Griffith said they needed to look a how much the cost would be if the district had to outfit some needy students with uniforms.

'The worst-case scenario would be $90 [for three sets of outfits] per kid,' he said. 'We need to dabble into this lawsuit [in another district] and see what's going on.'

'You've done a lot of hard work,' Yee told Erickson in regard to researching the possibility of uniforms.

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