Henrico County VA
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Draft policy on school uniforms advancing

Henrico County Public Schools officials are finalizing a policy that would allow individual schools in the county to propose voluntary or mandatory uniform policies for their students.

The draft plan is being created as the School Board’s response to inquiries from several elementary school principals who are interested in establishing their own uniform programs.

The draft outlines a number of criteria that a school would need to meet in order to implement such policies. It requires that a school considering uniform policies:

• send educational materials home to parents and provide material on its website; • hold at least two information sessions to solicit thoughts from parents;

• inform parents of all plans and activities through electronic notification systems;

• provide a cost analysis of such options for families to review;

• receive endorsement of the plan from at least 85 percent of its professional staff members;

• survey at least 85 percent of families and receive endorsement from at least 85 percent of those.

A handful of elementary schools in the eastern portion of the county currently have voluntary uniform policies. Most have participation from more than 70 percent of students, according to HCPS Director of Elementary Education Pam Bell – in part because of incentive-based rewards for students who participate.

The success of the programs has caused some of those principals to inquire about how to consider mandatory policies, while principals at other schools have asked about voluntary policies, she said.

There are a number of perceived benefits to uniform policies, Deputy Superintendent Pat Kinlaw told the School Board during a Jan. 13 work session. Uniforms may increase student safety; help bridge socio-economic gaps in some schools; promote good student behavior and inclusiveness; allow students to concentrate more on their work; and enhance the learning environment.

But the use of uniforms also could reduce student individuality and freedom of expression, opponents of such policies argue.

During the past several months, school officials have met with focus groups of parents, teachers and principals from each of the schools that currently have voluntary programs, Kinlaw said.

They’ve also reviewed uniform policies from other school divisions and reviewed U.S. and Virginia Department of Education guidelines, as well as Code of Virginia language, he said.

By establishing a general policy to outline the steps individuals schools must take in order to invoke uniform policies, the School Board would protect itself legally and would not need to set a blanket voluntary or mandatory policy countywide, School Board attorney Melissa Velasquez told the board in October.

The general policy also would protect the School Board from lawsuits related to First Amendment rights, Velasquez said.

“We think that it’s neutral enough that it would survive a First Amendment challenge,” she said.

The draft policy suggests that any uniform policies that are adopted begin at the start of a new school year, to allow for a smooth transition and preparation process beginning in April and leading up to the first day of school in September.

Students at any school that adopts a mandatory uniform policy would be permitted to transfer to a nearby school that does not have such a policy, Kinlaw said. Families would be responsible for transporting their students to the new school.

A large number of transfer requests would be unlikely, he said, because many of the students who didn’t endorse the plan likely would adhere to it anyway, rather than switch schools. Research conducted by HCPS officials of other districts that utilize mandatory policies concluded as much, he said. Bell said that Henrico has witnessed the same scenario among elementary students whose parents initially opposed voluntary policies but now send their children to school in uniforms anyway.

Adoption of a mandatory policy by a school would require penalties for students who did not wear their uniforms. The draft policy suggests that first-time offenders receive a change of clothes from an in-school “clothes closet” of uniforms and a call to their parents or guardians. Second and third offenders would be picked up by their parents and taken home, and fourth-time offenders would be reassigned to schools without uniforms.

Though the draft uniform policy is intended for elementary schools, it would be available to middle schools or high schools as well. School Board members theorized that none of the county’s middle or high schools would come close to meeting the 85 percent threshold necessary to enact a policy, however.

The draft policy will be available for review and public comment for 30 days on the school system’s website – http://www.henrico.k12.va.us Offic.ials will gather comments and then report back to the School Board in the coming weeks.
Community

Rotary donates to ‘Bright Beginnings’

The Sandston Rotary Club recently donated $1,000 to the Sandston YMCA for its Bright Beginnings program, which helps provide children in need with school supplies for the new school year. > Read more.

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Bottoms up

Short Pump brewery offers more than just beer
I am still (happily) thinking about my entire experience at Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery last week. Knowing nothing about this new brewery out of Denver, I was leery of brew-pub in the heart of Short Pump Town Center – this is not what I’d usually think of as a perfect fit, and yet, it was.

The restaurant and craft brewery opened in early June and features 10 beers made by female brewmaster Becky Hammond (pictured). This is the restaurant’s second location in Virginia; the first is in Arlington. Behind glass walls, customers watched the beer brewing in massive steel barrels. For our up-and-coming beer region, it makes sense that Short Pump would jump on board.

As I walked up to the back of the mall near the comedy club, I was taken aback by what I saw: at the top of the stairs was an overflowing restaurant with outdoor seating, large umbrellas and dangling outdoor lights. > Read more.

Cultural Arts Center announces 2014 fall class schedule

The Cultural Arts Center at Glen Allen is now registering participants for its fall 2014 schedule of classes.

The center will offer more than 100 classes for children and adults, covering topicssuch as culinary arts, fiber arts, visual and performance arts and more. Instruction is structured to appeal to a wide range of abilities, from beginners to experts of all ages. Class sizes are kept small to ensure maximum benefit for participants with generally no more than 15 students. > Read more.

Restaurant watch

Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.

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