St. Mary’s committee asks parents about school uniforms

A small committee of staff and parents at St. Mary’s High School in Owen Sound are surveying parents and guardians about introducing student uniforms at the school.

The majority of Catholic high schools in Ontario have uniforms and the question of why there aren’t uniforms at St. Mary’s comes up at the beginning of each school year, Jodi Armstrong, the co-chair of the school’s parent advisory council and a member of the uniform committee, said recently.

“There’s never been a definitive answer . . . We are in the process of getting to a definitive answer to ‘Do the families of this school think we should have uniforms?'”

Information meetings at the school last week attracted about 130 people in total.

Under the Bruce Grey Catholic District School Board’s policy, for uniforms to be brought in “more than 70% of the families (of St. Mary’s students) have to agree . . . It’s not a 50-50 split,” Armstrong added.

The uniform committee – a teacher and another staff member from St. Mary’s and two-parent representatives – “started this process at the end of September. There’s a lot of background work that had to be done . . . We had to collect information and data not just from the uniform companies, but from schools that have been through the process.

“Most schools that have uniforms have traditionally had them for a long time. But there are a handful of schools in Ontario that have implemented them in the last six years, so we talked closely with those schools and with schools that had voted them down.”

Questionnaires were mailed to all parents and guardians at the beginning of January and will be followed up with phone calls in an attempt to get everyone’s response.

“By the beginning of February, we hope to have to talk to every family either written or by phone and have the basic question answered of how do our families feel about a uniform. Is it something they want for their children,” Armstrong said.

“If we were to implement uniforms in 2010, in September 2010, we would have to have an answer by February.”

The committee is not surveying families of students in Grade 8 who might attend St. Mary’s next year.

Under board policy “we can only survey our current student population,” Armstrong said. “But it’s a small town. People know this discussion is happening.”

Uniforms, if they are brought in, would be for both male and female students.

Armstrong wouldn’t comment specifically on the cost of school uniforms, even though in presentations to parents it is discussed “because that’s a concern to some families.” She said the committee is in talks with three companies whose uniforms they thought would “appeal to teenagers, that would be easy to care for, that would be reflective of our school colors.”

Student reps have been modeling different uniforms at school for the past week or so “just so the other students can see what they’re like” and to get feedback on the style and quality of the clothes.

Students at the Bruce Grey Catholic board’s other high school, Sacred Heart in Walkerton, do not wear uniforms. Members of the school advisory committee there also discussed the possibility of bringing them in but felt “they wouldn’t get 70% vote in favor,” Armstrong said.

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