Antioch Middle School, Bidwell Continuation High School and Lone Tree Elementary students have been wearing uniforms for the past year. That effort has been so encouraging that a School Uniform Handbook was put together and distributed last fall to principals in other Antioch schools.
The schools interested in adopting uniforms in the coming 2008-09 school year are Dozier-Libbey Medical High School, Delta Academy for the Performing Arts, Belshaw, Carmen Dragon, Fremont, Kimball, Marsh, Sutter and Turner.
That interest was based on the results of surveys sent to parents in which strong support was shown for uniforms, according to Assistant Superintendent for Elementary Education Charles Miller, who presented the results at the Feb. 13 Antioch Unified School District Board meeting.
At Belshaw, 83 percent of parents approved of uniforms, at Carmen Dragon 70 percent, Fremont 91 percent, Kimball 90 percent, Marsh 85 percent, Sutter 80 percent and Turner 90 percent. Surveys are planned to be sent to parents of Dallas Ranch and Park middle school students.
The positive comments on the surveys included:
• "Love the idea! Uniforms encourage unity among peers and boosts school image."
• "I wish all schools would go with school uniforms."
• "Great idea! Easier to spot a school intruder and a great way to make the pressure of clothing simpler."
But the feeling wasn't unanimous. Two of the negative comments stated:
• "I don't think elementary schools have the behavioral needs of a uniform dress code."
• "I never have liked the idea of uniforms. I like to dress my daughter as an individual."
In addition to the surveys, meetings were held at each school to inform the parents about the uniforms and gain their input. Based on the positive results, Miller's report to the board states that there is a "reasonable basis to assume that school uniforms in these schools would be well supported by the community."
AUSD Superintendent Deborah Sims credited the success of the effort to the fact that it was not a top-down decision in which administrators attempted to force uniforms on reluctant parents, students and staff members.
"This has been in every school a grass-roots effort," said Sims. "We have provided the tools, we've had the conversations, but we haven't mandated. We've provided the opportunity for principals to share and talk, but the most powerful process is when it comes from within."
Board President Walter Ruehlig was pleasantly surprised with the results of the survey. "This exceeded the expectations; this is really something," he said. "I was hoping for maybe between three and six schools this year (interested in adopting uniforms). Toa see this many is staggering. It's heading to critical mass.
"Once in a while the board can look back and say, 'Gosh, we were brilliant.' This is one of those occasions where this whole idea of letting the schools vest into it themselves really has worked. To force it down people's throats, you will get resistance. People will say, 'I didn't opt into that.'"
Board Member Gary Agopian hopes the trend will continue to eventually include all of the district's schools.
"I would like to see this get to a point where we are district-wide because of the unity and sense of professionalism (it engenders) in the schools," he said. "Our students are going to school and doing their job - it sends a message about a professional attitude. I've seen staff wearing uniforms. I see a real buy-in all the way across the board. It's refreshing."
Deer Valley High School Co-principals Scott Bergerhouse and Clarence Isadore were asked whether uniforms might eventually be coming to their school. Bergerhouse said they have been in discussion with Antioch High Principal Louie Rocha about that possibility.
"We are entertaining that idea for a positive direction for our kids," said Isadore. "Parents are starting to ask some questions and are actually interested."
Bergerhouse was also upbeat about the prospect of uniforms. "The nice thing is: as we get more and more (elementary and middle) schools in the effort, it makes our transition (to high school uniforms) easier."