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Uniform Plan for Ventura Middle Schools Is Scrapped : Education: Superintendent drops idea after principals at three campuses say an informal poll of parents showed that the outfits aren’t a priority.

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ventura schools chief Joseph Spirito announced Tuesday he is dropping a proposal that all sixth- through eighth-grade students wear uniforms because not enough parents support the idea.

Principals at Cabrillo, Balboa and Anacapa middle schools told Spirito at a Tuesday morning meeting that parents polled informally had made clear that uniforms are not a priority.

And the principal of Ventura’s fourth middle school, De Anza, made clear last year that he did not support the proposal for his school.

Based on those reports, Spirito said, he decided it’s time to let the issue die.

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“I was hoping to generate some interest in the community by giving them a choice,” he said. “Evidently, uniforms (are) not an issue with them right now.”

Last spring, the district surveyed parents of elementary-aged children and they rejected the idea. A few months later, Spirito proposed a policy of school uniforms for the roughly 3,600 Ventura students who attend the city’s middle schools.

As proposed by Spirito, the uniform policy would be voluntary. Parents would still be able to send their children to school in non-uniform clothing if they chose.

The lack of a mandatory policy, and visions of school grounds filled with some students in uniforms and others in regular dress, turned off many parents and school staff members, principals said.

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“Personally, if the proposal was to make it mandatory to wear uniforms, I would support it,” Cabrillo Principal Kris Bergstrom said. “But with the peer pressure that comes with this age, I just don’t think a voluntary policy would work.”

Bergstrom took a poll of parents on the issue in a campus newsletter. Of the 750 families who received the survey, about 50 returned them, she said.

The sentiment was 2 to 1 against a uniform policy, she said. Principals at other schools said they had similar responses, Spirito said.

Steve Magoon, the parent of a sixth-grade student at Anacapa, said he was very pleased to see the issue dropped. “I think there are a lot of serious problems in education,” he said. “But I don’t see uniforms as solving anything.”

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Although disappointed by the community’s reaction, Spirito said he still will pursue uniforms at a proposed “back-to-basics” elementary school under consideration by the district.

Conceived as a magnet school that would draw students from around the district, the campus would combine uniforms for students with required parent volunteer work on campus.

Parents, students and teachers would sign contracts agreeing to the school’s strict standards for dress and behavior.

Surveys have been distributed to Ventura parents of elementary school-age children to gauge support for the proposal and determine where the campus should be built, Spirito said. Those surveys must be returned to the district office by Friday, he said.

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When he unveiled his plan for a back-to-basics school last year, the superintendent said several parents called to ask him why uniforms and other aspects of the alternative school could not be instituted at all elementary schools.

Based on those calls, he decided to poll parents on the issue of uniforms, Spirito said.

“I thought I was responding to a community need,” he said. “But maybe what they want is to first see how it works at the back-to-basics school.”

School officials are expected to announce the site of the proposed back-to-basics school later this month.

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