Campbell Elementary to be first co-ed AISD school with uniforms

Campbell Elementary School
Campbell Elementary School (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) —  Students at Campbell Elementary in East Austin will be sporting a whole new look come next school year. The Austin Independent School District’s Board of Trustees voted Monday night to approve a uniform policy, making it the only school with both boys and girls to do so.

“It creates that uniformity at the schools, you don’t get the ‘what’s the latest fashion and styles?’ and those kind of distractions that sometimes happen,” AISD’s Chief Officer of Teaching and Learning Edmund Oropez said.

Research suggests uniforms can improve student performance and student/teacher relations, attributes Campbell Elementary is using to try and set itself apart from other elementary schools at a time when AISD enrollment is declining.

“This might give them that little edge that makes them a little different that might get our families excited about attending Campbell Elementary,” Oropez told KXAN.

He went on to explain that Keith Moore has worked for the past two years, since he became principal at Campbell Elementary, to raise community support and donations for school uniforms. The uniforms are expected to cost around $5,500 a year. If the policy is approved, any student eligible for the free or reduced lunch program will be able to receive uniform assistance. At Campbell Elementary, that’s nearly 92 percent of students.

The agenda item states, “In working with the Campus Advisory Council, community partners, parents and staff, the principal was able to receive monetary donations for the purchase of school uniforms and with his work with the Operation School Bell organization, the organization has committed to provide various clothing items for the children most in need of receiving uniform items at no cost to the families.”

Melissa Waelchli is a parent of two young girls at Wooten Elementary, where students are required to wear polos and khakis. While the only AISD schools with uniform policies are the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, Gus Garcia Young Men’s Leadership Academy and Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy, numerous schools within the district have a standardized dress code policy, which doesn’t require board approval.

Waelchli argues the restrictions come with both positives and negatives.

“When we first started coming to this school, I really liked the uniforms because as a parent it helped be more organized and the children knew exactly what they needed to wear in the morning. But this is our third year with it now, and I’m finding it can sometimes be a bit of a hassle if you don’t have enough clean clothes for the day, if you’ve missed a laundry day and say you can only afford five of any particular item,” Waelchli said.

Which is why within AISD, Oropez explained dress code policies are as diverse as the communities themselves, each school, allowed to decide what’s the best fit.

The uniform policy will go into effect next school year.

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