LISA RIND/Bullet News
NIAGARA – In a November, 2012, Bullet News reader poll titled “Should Niagara Catholic elementary students have to conform to a standardized dress code?” the response from the public was a resounding “yes.”
The Niagara Catholic District School Board agreed. When put to a vote last November, the board agreed to change its dress code, making a standardized format effective beginning next week for its estimated enrolment of 14,072 students in grades ELKP through 8.
“Niagara Catholic District School Board’s elementary standardized dress code begins on the first day of school, September 3, 2013, for all students in ELKP to Grade 8,” reads a statement on the NCDSB website. “Our Grade 8 students have the additional option of wearing the grey uniform pants of their future Catholic secondary school.” For dress code specifics, visit the board’s website and dress code page at http://portal.niagaracatholic.ca/dresscode/.
The dress code changes are mainly seen as positive, as they level the playing field, reducing peer pressure on students from day one.
However, there is an alternative view to standardized dress code. For families in which the clothing budget is already stretched thin by growing youngsters, amplified by the fact quality-sewn clothing is a thing of the past, the dress code comes as a burden rather than a helping hand.
“I have two children,” said Alex Woodhouse, parent of a son entering Grade 8 at Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School. “My daughter attends A.N. Myer Secondary School, and has a part-time job, so she doesn’t need as much help with her clothing purchases. But my son is 12, and he will likely need two or three different lengths of pants just for this school year alone.”
The dress code is designed to be economical for families, as board-approved designated suppliers must provide discounts for multi-student families, and schools plan clothing exchange days for families: All elementary schools will, with the voluntary assistance of Catholic School Council members, set up annual or semi-annual Dress Code Trade Days and facilitate donations of outgrown dress code items, reads a statement on the NCDSB website.
Suppliers, in accordance with board policy, must offer discounts to families spending more than $100, or for families with more than two children. Woodhouse said she earned a 15 per cent discount, as her purchases totaled more than $100.
“I have already spent more than $200, and I still have to buy my son other fall clothes. I could spend up to $300 on fall clothes because he had a growth spurt over the summer, and he would have something for every day. But with the dress code, I have spent that anyhow, and we still need clothes for after school and weekends,” said Woodhouse.
Choices for students range from navy blue or white oxford-style long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts; navy blue or white polo-style long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts and school-designed spirit wear, including shirts, sweaters or hoodies. Tops can be paired with navy blue sweatpants for students in Early Learning Kindergarten to Grade 3; navy blue pants (dress, cargo, denim, kobe, corduroy; navy blue skorts or dresses, but the length must be appropriate and modest) and navy blue walking shorts or capris. Grade 8 students have the option of wearing grey secondary uniform pants. Running shoes are the recommended footwear, with a full back and a closed toe for the health and safety of the entire school community. It is recommended that parents/guardians provide a pair of indoor shoes for physical education and indoor wear.
“Although having all the children dress the same looks nice, it’s an extra expense for parents that not everyone can afford,” said Woodhouse. “Personally, I don’t like it.”
In other NCDSB news, ground was broken in June on a $6 million expansion and renovation of Saint Michael Catholic High School in Niagara Falls.
The construction involves a 10-classroom expansion that will provide state-of-the-art equipment for students in specialized programs.
“It’s always an exciting time to see the transformations take shape as a school undergoes renovations,” said Niagara Catholic Director of Education John Crocco. “Saint Michael High School is currently over capacity. This new construction will allow students in two of our technology programs – Culinary Arts and Transportation Technology – the opportunity to work and learn in state-of-the-art classrooms. It will also provide a new music classroom and new weight and exercise rooms for students. I look forward to the day in 2014 when we celebrate the completion of this construction with the official blessing and opening of the newly renovated school.”
Two other schools underwent recent changes to improve or add space: St. Philomena Catholic Elementary School in Fort Erie has undergone a $342,000 renovation for its ELK classroom; Mary Ward Catholic Elementary School in Niagara Falls was given a $905,000 renovation to create a new library and ELK class space.
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