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Principal Troy Monroe is working on details with an advisory committee after the school board approved a pilot program at Illing on Monday. Monroe has been researching the subject for months, inspired by the success of uniforms at middle schools in East Hartford and other communities and a survey that showed strong support for uniforms among Manchester parents, faculty and the business community.In the 2011 12 school year, Illing students will wear polo style shirts in green, blue or white. Cold weather options may include polar fleece tops, turtlenecks, long sleeved polos and zippered sweat shirts (no hoodies). All tops will include the school name and Rams logo.Bottoms will be khaki style tan, black or navy blue (no cargo pants). Boys may wear pants or shorts. Girls may wear pants, shorts, skirts, capri pants or combination shorts and skirt called skorts. The hems of the shorter garments must be no more than 3 inches above the knee. Shoes must be closed toe no flip flops, slides or moccasins.In an interview Thursday, Monroe, 44, the school’s principal for five years, cited the benefits of school uniforms all related to student achievement and safety.”It sets a tone in the building,” the veteran educator said. “You are here for learning.”Although the school’s current dress code prohibits inappropriate clothing, some students press the limits with baggy pants, too short skirts, see through tops and other dress not conducive to academics, Monroe said. Dealing with those students, he said, takes time away from instruction.Also, about 46 percent of Illing students receive free or reduced price lunches. So while some parents can buy their children the latest name brand jeans and sneakers, others can’t, and children from poorer households have told him they feel diminished, Monroe said.”This is another way to minimize those distractions,” he said.Efforts will be made to help families who may not be able to afford the required uniforms, he said.The uniform dress code also is designed to promote safety through common identification.”If our kids look a certain way, we know they’re our kids,” Monroe said.Finally, uniforms prepare students for expectations beyond middle school. Local business people have told him they expect appropriate dress and a sense of decorum from potential employees, Monroe said.He acknowledged that most students hate the prospect of uniforms. In a survey of about 400 Illing students, only 15 to 20 favored the idea. Some parents also oppose the program, saying they would have sent their children to private schools if they wanted them to wear uniforms, Monroe said.But the majority of parents, faculty and business people in town all have shown strong support. As the new school year progresses, Monroe said, he will keep data on compliance and how the uniform requirement affects attendance, tardiness and misbehavior.School officials will choose a vendor for the school uniform tops. Pants and other bottom garments do not have to be from an approved vendor; parents may buy those at stores where they can get the best value, Monroe said.
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