Sharp proposes new uniform policy

COVINGTON - Sharp Learning Center could be the next school in the Newton County School System to require its students to wear uniforms on campus.

At last week's Newton County Board of Education work session, NCSS Superintendent Steven Whatley recommended that the board approve a uniform policy at Sharp Learning Center beginning with the 2009-10 school year.

"Sharp Learning Center believes that a school dress code/uniform policy is a positive and cost-effective way to create a more unified, positive and safe school climate focused more strongly on the learning process," Whatley wrote in a memo to the board members. "It is expected that a dress code will also minimize disruptive behavior, improve discipline, assist in preventing gang activity and allow for easy identification of intruders on campus."

It would be the fifth school in NCSS to adopt a uniform policy, but the first school that serves middle and high school students. Ficquett, Heard-Mixon, Middle Ride and Porterdale elementary schools have uniform policies for its students.

The proposed policy states that shirts and blouses must be collared white shirts with buttons and no logos that must be tucked in at all times; undershirts also must be solid white with no designs.

Students would also be required to wear tan khaki, full-length pants under the new policy. The pants must fit at the students' waists and may not be hip huggers, stretch pants, Capri, corduroy, jean-style, cargo-style or have pockets down the pant legs. Students must hold up their pants with a plain black belt with no decorative buckles or decorations around the belt.

Students also will not be allowed to wear jackets, coats, hoodies, gloves or hats while in the school building.

They must wear closed-toe and closed-heel shoes; shoelaces are required, and slippers, flip-flops, sandals or other slip-on shoes are not permitted under the new policy.

Additionally, all clothing and shoes must be "the appropriate size," and students may not wear layers of clothes underneath their uniform, according to the policy.

"I like the fact that it's one choice," school board Chairman C.C. Bates said. "I think it cuts down on issues that arise with school uniforms."

School Principal Gabriel Burnette, who originally brought up the idea for uniforms to the school board in July, said he informed parents and staff of the policy change and has received a lot of support for the idea. Several staff members even modeled the uniforms during the board meeting.

Once approved, Burnette said he will discuss the policy at length with parents and other schools in the system.

Some school board members were concerned with students not following the uniform policy - Burnette said he would put responsibility on the parents, perhaps having a conference with them or requiring them to pick up their child or bring appropriate clothing. School board member Almond Turner suggested the school require parents to sign a contract to show acknowledgement and responsibility for the uniform policy.

"We will back you up 100 percent with dealing with this issue," board member Cathy Dobbs said. "Whatever you need to do to make this effective, we're going to be there for you."

The Newton County Board of Education will vote on the recommendation at 7 p.m. today during the monthly meeting, which will be held at the Newton County BOE building at 2109 Newton Drive N.E. in Covington.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.