Reynoldsburg schools ready to make uniforms an easy fit

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When classes begin this week, Reynoldsburg will become the first public district in Franklin County to implement a uniform policy for students in seventh through twelfth grade.

And during the summer, administrators at the high school and two junior highs have been working to make ensure a comfortable transition, the school board heard Aug. 21.

"We need to bend over backwards to help parents to comply," Superintendent Richard Ross said.

This includes financial assistance in purchasing the required clothing for families who qualify.

The superintendent also wanted to know what plans the principals had for enforcing the new rules.

The "Raider Wear" policy requires students to wear pants, shorts or skirts (at least touching the top of the knee) in khaki, black or navy blue, and shirts (with collars) or sweaters and sweatshirts in gold, purple or white.

Students must also display their identification cards at all times.

Other items of apparel, including hats, hooded sweatshirts, and flip-flops, are prohibited.

Baldwin Road Junior High Principal Terrance Hubbard said he had called all of the more than 450 families with students enrolled to remind them of the requirements and to hear their concerns.

Samples of the mandated clothing were displayed at the school, he said.

Waggoner Road Junior High Principal Tyrone Olverson reported that he has made similar efforts, along with mailing fliers and having clothing vendors at the student orientation.

Reynoldsburg High School Principal Diane Mankins said the reception desk has received more than 100 calls with questions about the policy.

A frequent question has been about the difference between "Raider Wear" and "Spirit Wear," Mankins said.

Spirit wear will be allowed on designated days, and may include shirts with the school logo, or Ohio State colors, the principal later explained. Spirit wear days will be  limited to up to four a month.

Students who show up at school out of uniform will be pulled out of class and parents will be notified, the principal said. Efforts will be made to determine if the student has been unable to obtain the requiring clothing, or is simply ignoring the policy.

Lost class time due to non-compliance will be considering an unexcused absence. A warning will be issued after the first violation, and additional infractions could result in additional penalties.

The debate over the policy divided the community, with about half of parents and students at meetings favoring the policy and the rest objecting.

Board President Cheryl Max said that the policy has already simplified her life, since she was able to find school clothes for her child in one store.

The principals were invited to the September board meeting to report on how the policy is working.

While the district is hoping its uniform policy is a good fit, its standing on the state report card has shrunk slightly.

Ross noted that the district had slipped from "excellent" to "effective" status for the 2006-07 school year, meeting 26 out of 30 standards.

The areas where students did not meet the state’s 75 percent proficiency level were fifth-grade mat and social studies, and eighth-grade science and social studies.

The district’s performance index score dipped to 96.9, from the previous year’s 98.6, out of a possible score of 120.

The district also failed to meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress benchmarks in reading and math proficiency.

Ross said his expectation is that the district will return to "excellent" status for the coming school year.

Treasurer Mitchell Biederman did have some good news on the financial side of the ledger.

The board approved a spending plan of $55,092,000 for the current fiscal year. That’s only $30,000 more than the district spent two years ago.

In that time, the district has opened three new schools without significantly increasing spending, Ross pointed out.

"There are not many school districts that can open three buildings and have expenditures within $30,000 of what they spent two years ago," Ross said.

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