Board OKs uniforms for Sharp Learning Center

COVINGTON - Students attending Sharp Learning Center will wear uniforms beginning next school year.

During Tuesday's monthly meeting, the Newton County Board of Education approved a uniform policy at Newton County's alternative school.

The board, which unanimously approved the policy, acted on a recommendation by Newton County School System Superintendent Steven Whatley.

"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."

Sharp Learning Center is the fifth school in the school system to adopt a uniform policy, and the first school that serves middle and high school students to do so. Ficquett, Heard-Mixon, Middle Ridge and Porterdale elementary schools also have uniform policies for their students.

Sharp's new uniform policy is the most strict policy of all of the other NCSS schools, basically giving students just one style choice - white shirts and tan pants.

It states that students must wear collared white shirts and blouses with buttons. The shirts must not depict any logos, and they must be tucked in at all times; undershirts also must be solid white with no designs.

Students also must wear tan khaki, full-length pants. 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 will not be permitted.

The policy stresses that all clothing and shoes must be "the appropriate size."

School Principal Gabriel Burnette, who first brought up the idea for uniforms to the school board in July, said he had already informed parents and staff of the proposed policy change and has received a lot of support for the idea.

Several staff members attended both the monthly work session and meeting to show support for the policy, modeling some of the uniforms themselves. They clapped and smiled once the school board approved the policy during Tuesday's meeting.

Burnette said after the meeting that school staff members also are discussing the possibility of staff members following the uniform policy while on the campus, but no decisions regarding that are finalized yet.

He also told the board during the work session that he plans to further discuss the policy with parents of students and also with other schools in the system, since those are the students' home schools.

The board and Burnette discussed possible repercussions for students not adhering to the uniform policy, including placing responsibility on the parents by holding a parent conference or requiring parents to bring appropriate clothing.

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

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