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Uhland Elementary School looks at standardized dress for success

A relatively empty office space doesn’t keep Uhland Elementary Principal Cynthia Vasquez from dreaming big.

Furniture for the brand new campus is still a few weeks away, but for now, a simple table and a few chairs are all she needs to begin planning for the school’s first year of operation.

Among the list is preparing for a parent-advocated standardized dress code, which will make Uhland only one of two Hays CISD campuses to have it.

Vasquez believes having a simplified dress code will not only prevent possible bullying issues, but could very well help promote confidence in students who have been historically underprivileged.

“If we’re dressed for success and we’re dressed the same way, it sends the message that we’re a big family and we’re all in this together,” Vasquez said.

Discussion on a standardized dress code began in March between future Uhland Elementary parents and campus administration. The discussion eventually led to the creation of an online survey for parents in April to weigh in, which was then followed by a paper survey sent out in May.

Total results showed 78 percent of 267 respondents supported standardized dress of some kind. During meetings, parents felt the dress code would diminish bullying and would be cost effective for some parents. The support led Vasquez and her staff to implement a standardized dress, which will be a blue polo shirt and a khaki bottom. 

Vasquez said standardized dress differs from a uniform as the latter requires students to wear the exact same tops and bottoms. Vasquez said budget constraints led the campus to possibly push the idea of a uniform to another year.

Tim Savoy, Hays CISD public information officer, said the district does not have a centralized directive on whether or not to call for uniforms or standardized dress. Instead, the district leaves that decision up to campus administrators, who can “set the tone and culture of a campus.”

Simon Middle School is the only campus to require uniforms in Hays CISD. McCormick Middle School required uniforms when it first opened in 2016, but parents advocated for a change in the policy at teh start of the 2017 school year.

However, Hays CISD does have a “framework” dress code, which helps to shape more specific ones at each campus. Savoy said

“It’s better to have an approach where it’s a campus-based decision, than to have a one-size-fits-all decision,” Savoy said. “It gives campuses and neighborhoods that attend those schools a chance to have a voice.”

Vasquez said she was “very intrigued” to see many parents were on board with standardized dress code, and were happy to see parent involvement. But she was surprised by parents’ beliefs regarding standardized dress.

An “eye-opening” discovery for administrators came when first and second grade parents relayed stories of children pointing out differences in what others are wearing. Vasquez said while they urge students to be respectful, the “dressing part of it goes unnoticed,” and that it might happen more often than people think.

“Parents felt it’s a form of bullying,” Vasquez said. “For a child being that young, they feel like someone hurts their feelings because they weren’t wearing a certain piece of clothing.”

Uhland Elementary administrators also believe having a standardized dress code could help improve the confidence of students who are struggling academically.

Vasquez said dressing for success could help boost student self-confidence, which could reflect in their grades.

“They need to be able to believe in themselves,” Vasquez said. “The academics will then be on par. If we have kids who are not confident in themselves, many times they struggle.”

Having standardized dress might ease financial strain on parents, allowing them the option to focus on buying a few sets of shirts and pants for the semester, Vasquez said.

Parent liasons will also plan to purchase shirts and pants in bulk to help students who might not be able to afford them.

As the school year continues, Vasuez said she will gauge parent feedback on whether to possibly move to uniforms next year.

“I think parents are intrigued. They like the idea of having a uniform,” Vasquez said. “We’re not opposed to moving to uniforms completely. “

Uhland Elementary, which was constructed as part of Hays CISD’s $250 million May 2017 bond, opens this August.

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