MILFORD—The Caroline County School Board conducted a uniform forum at the new Bowling Green Elementary School on Nov. 19 to discuss the possible implementation of uniforms within the school system next year.
An estimated 40 to 50 parents and members of the community attended the meeting in the school library to voice their questions and concerns, and to learn more about the possible wardrobe changes facing Caroline schools.
After the students who agreed to model the uniform prototypes were shown, the forum opened up to public comments. Many of the parents seemed displeased with the idea of uniforms, regardless of the reasoning behind them. Some parents shook their heads and mumbled under their breath. Others were outspoken against the idea.
There were strong opinions on both side of the argument, with some parents adamantly stating that a dress code will not help students if they feel it is a punishment, and it will not have the desired effect of eliminating inappropriate clothing. There were frowns and arm crossings, as well as smiles and nods of approval.
One parent voiced her concern over enforcement issues and asked school officials how they planned to enforce a uniform policy when they were having trouble enforcing the current dress code. Officials responded, “Uniforms are easier to enforce than a dress code” due to how narrow the parameters are.
Another parent, who was not opposed to the concept of uniforms, wanted to know how restrictive they would be. Bowling Green Mayor Storke responded that they were presenting a prototype and that the official uniform had not be decided yet.
School Board member Tinka Harris and Chairperson Nancy Carson were in attendance, as well as Caroline School Superintendent Gregory Killough.
The meeting began with Storke giving a general overview of the forum, starting with the vision statement: to better prepare Caroline County Public School students to be positive contributors in their community and to overcome the challenges of the competitive marketplace.
The mission of requiring uniforms, as identified by the School Board, is to maximize individual potential while encouraging and instilling principles of teamwork.
The purpose of uniforms in schools, according to officials, is to create a focused learning environment; promote a unified and structured atmosphere; and emphasize student individuality and creativity through the arts, academics, and athletics.
During the forum, school officials and concerned parents discussed the parameters of the proposed change to the dress code, the parent survey results, and examples of the dress code. Several children modeled prototypes of the uniform, which included khakis, and red, blue, and white polo shirts.
Storke gave the audience a brief overview as to how the idea of school uniforms came to be. Storke said that the Caroline County Chamber of Commerce met over a year ago to discuss business, lives, and quality of life in the county. He stated that the group discussed how the school system is the No. 1 factor that determines the success of a locality.
According to Storke, a group of seven business owners got together to discuss ways to bring more business to Caroline County. This group, which is in favor of the uniforms, is made up of Caroline residents, most of whom have graduated from Caroline High School, and whose children attend Caroline schools.
“I am very proud of our school system,” Storke said. “Everywhere I go, I run into folks who have an opinion on our school system. Usually negative.” Storke then asked the parents if they had ever heard anyone speak negatively about Caroline County and its school system. The parents expressed a murmur of agreement in response to the question.
Killough told the group that more forums to discuss the matter would be scheduled for the future, and that he has plans to meet with students at the schools to allow them the opportunity to voice their opinions. Killough said that by February there may be a recommendation to the School Board to hold a hearing, and that a decision should be made by April.
Carson thanked everyone who attended, and all those who were involved with trying to bring positive attention to the schools. Another uniform forum will be at 6 p.m. on Dec. 17 at Lewis and Clarke Elementary School