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school uniforms

Loreth Beswetherick If parents and students at Whistler secondary and Myrtle Philip elementary schools indicate they are in favour of school uniforms, they could be implemented as early as the fall of next year. The proposed uniform would likely reflect Whistler’s relaxed lifestyle and include fleece vests and jackets, T-shirts and golf shirts and khaki pants for the boys, with an option of skirts for the girls. A small group of parents has been looking into the feasibility of uniforms since the spring of last year and several meetings have been held with teachers and parents at the high school. The response, says Deborah Jones, one of the parents on a committee to now poll parents and pupils, has generally been positive. "There were one or two vocal people at the last PAC meeting who made the comment that they didn’t want to see this rammed down their throats," said Jones. "This disturbs me. Frankly, if people don’t want a uniform we all have other things to do." She emphasised the process is a consultative one and no one will be in a position to force anyone to don homogenous dress. Questionnaires have been sent to all parents of Whistler secondary students. They asked if respondents were in favour of a uniform and, if so, would they prefer a traditional or non-traditional outfit. The surveys were due back at the school Wednesday last week. Jones said it will take a while to process the results and allow for late submissions. "The way we are going about it is very consultative. The questionnaire is a first step and then there would be a special PAC meeting held to discuss it and another meeting with the student council." Jones said no decision has been reached as to what percentage needs to be in favour of uniforms. "My hunch is we would have to have more than 51 per cent." Jones said the committee is not sure yet if that would be 51 per cent of the total student population and parents or only of the survey respondents. "We are feeling our way on this one." The Myrtle Philip Parent Advisory Council has also given the go-ahead for an elementary school survey following a presentation on the potential merits of uniforms by Maureen Donovan at their last meeting Nov. 9. Myrtle Philip PAC chair, Leslie Patterson, said the group doesn’t have a stand either way on uniforms. "We are fine with the survey. We said, show us the results." The Myrtle Philip PAC suggested there should be 75 per cent support for the concept to work. If parents are not in favour, Myrtle Philip staff will start working on a dress code. The issue will also be discussed with parents of students in the Francophone program. Jones said starting by introducing uniforms at the elementary school may be the route to go. She said the concept of uniforms has met with some Grade 11 and 12 resistance. "I do think it is unlikely you can get Grades 11 and 12 to buy in at this point. That’s my personal opinion." She said the uniform committee’s research indicates a significant cost saving for parents. "The clothing we are looking at is really high quality and durable. It costs about half of what you are spending in stores already and I think that is an advantage." The committee’s premise is that uniforms help foster a professional mindset for students helping make school a place for teaching and learning. They say school would not be viewed as a battleground or a fashion stage; that uniforms will create a sense of pride and belonging and serve as an equalizer. "My personal take is it reduces the hassle of clothing and evens out some of the social bumps with kids who dress fashionably and those who don’t. It levels the playing field." Jones said the Surrey Traditional school is an example of an institution that has opted for a casual-style uniform. "We are not looking into making our school a traditional school but the uniform part seems to work really well there." She said wearing a uniform would be completely voluntary but parents would support the concept by buying the dress. "I want to stress it is a consultative process. If people want it and want to get involved, it’s going to go. If they don’t, everybody is going to drop it." The Myrtle Philip PAC has already voted in favour of a mandatory gym strip for intermediate students starting September 2000. Patterson said the T-shirt and shorts will help identify kids at school events like cross country meets and help foster a team spirit.