A smart look coming soon to Southside-Ashpole

Today at Southside-Ashpole Elementary School there will be a second fitting for students so they will slide snugly into their new school uniforms.

We can promise you there will be excitement among those getting measured.

There was certainly that during a meeting that Eric Hall, superintendent of the Innovative School District, of which Southside is the only constituent, and Tony Helton, CEO of Achievement for All Children, which will manage the school, held with Rowland residents in June to get their input on Southside’s forward path. Those in attendance left little doubt that they preferred school uniforms for their children and grandchildren.

Uniforms might seem like a small thing when it comes to student performance, except for this big bit: There is ample evidence that uniforms reduce disciplinary problems, increase attendance, bump graduation rates and enhance safety on campus. They instill in students a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves, and pride in one’s academics is a key missing ingredient in many of our schools, especially those such as Southside with a history of poor performance.

“School uniforms help to create a positive learning climate, contribute to safe schools, encourage higher standards of excellence in conduct and achievement as well as level the playing field for all,” Helton said.

There are also practical considerations.

“In addition to fostering a sense of community and school spirit, student uniforms will help make mornings easier for families by eliminating discussions about what to wear from morning routines, relieve school staff from administering school dress codes, reduce the potential for teasing with regards to a students’ attire, and they’re economical,” Hall said.

While uniforms aren’t necessarily expensive, a lot of those students attending Southside-Ashpole come from families struggling financially. The Innovative School District has been working to get sponsors to pay for the uniforms, and the system will pick up the cost for uniforms that aren’t sponsored, at least initially. That is a great deal for the students and their families.

So what will students be wearing? A blue polo top with the Southside-Ashpole logo on the left chest and khaki bottoms. A smart look.

There are those who oppose school uniforms, disputing studies that determine there are benefits. The primary criticism is that uniforms somehow stymie a student’s right to free expression, which we find silly. Students don’t have a right to free expression when they are walking the halls on campus.

Bruce Major, the principal of Southside, has worked in schools with uniforms before, and he says that the school’s approach to learning will provide the opportunity for individualism.

“Albeit a valid argument, the strong academic and cultural programs we have planned will provide ample opportunities for individual student expressions of their personality, likes and dislike,” Major said.

We plan to have a story soon that will include a photograph of the new uniforms that the Southside students will be wearing — and doing so, we are certain, with pride.

We believe the uniforms will be just another piece in putting together the puzzle that will lift that school and its students to levels of academic success not seen in many years. We would bet as well that it won’t be long until uniforms are floated for use in other public schools in the local system.