Cornelius can explore dress code for 2007-08

School Uniforms -- Principal Perla Rodriguez follows parent group's lead in studying the idea
by: Chase Allgood, Perla Rodriguez, principal at Cornelius Elementary School, stands in the building’s main hallway on Monday afternoon. She’s helping a parent group look into the feasibility of a uniform dress code policy for next year.

Cautioning Cornelius Elementary School Principal Perla Rodriguez to consider the possible district-wide implications of a uniform dress code, the Forest Grove School Board on April 9 gave her permission to further explore the idea.

Rodriguez has done her homework on the issue, the board learned. Led by a core group of parents who want their children to wear uniforms to school, she stapled a survey - asking other parents whether they'd support such a program - to student report cards in March.

Eighty-one percent of the 253 families returning the survey indicated they would support a dress code at Cornelius, a school of 390 students in grades K-4.

'I feel that if this many parents in our school community want this, then I have an obligation to help move it forward,' Rodriguez told the board.

Ninety-six percent of her staff said they could support a dress code policy, Rodriguez noted.

The initiating parents 'want the role of 'student' elevated for the children,' Rodriguez said by way of explaining their interest.

In recent weeks, Rodriguez told the board, she reviewed legal findings regarding school uniforms, read pertinent school board policies in neighboring districts and visited a Salem grade school with a dress code and demographics similar to those at Cornelius.

Rodriguez said she was anxious to make a decision as the end of the 2006-07 school year approaches.

'I have parents who are coming in with fabric, saying, 'what do you think of this shade of blue?,'' she said.

Rodriguez emphasized that any dress code 'wouldn't look like uniforms at a Catholic school' but instead might require slacks and collared shirts for boys and similarly colored tops, skirts and pants for girls.

'You would definitely be able to tell this is a school that has uniforms, but it wouldn't be rigid or a situation where you'd have to go to a certain store to buy it,' she said.

Opt-out program

Rodriguez also would implement an 'opt-out' program for parents who did not wish their children to wear uniforms.

Board member Dawn Pratt was concerned that the district might have to bear a financial burden if some students' families could not afford the uniforms.

'If the finances of this are going to fall to the district, then I have a problem,' Pratt said.

Superintendent Jack