A total of only eight parents attended the two evening meetings held last week at Coronado K-8 School, 3401 E. Wilds Road, to discuss implementing school uniforms on campus next fall.
The meetings were the first step in public discussion of possible uniform adoption, said Coronado Assistant Principal David Berry. The school is following uniform research guidelines established in 1999 by Phil Woodall, former principal of La Cima Middle School, 5600 N. La Canada Drive.
Currently, only La Cima and Nash Elementary have school uniforms in the Amphitheater School District.
Coronado's first meeting was Nov. 5 and seven parents attended, said Maureen Peters, a member of the school site council and one of the primary volunteers researching uniform adoption. Of those parents, six were in favor of uniforms and one was against, she said.
"Her primary concern was that uniforms are a form of punishment for the kids," Peters said of the lone opponent. The other main concern brought up that night was that uniforms "somehow label (Coronado) as a bad school, but I don't see that at all," she said.
The second meeting, held Saturday, drew only one parental guardian. Ann Hayes is raising her two grandchildren, Dustin Gilbert, 12, and Stephani Gilbert, 10, and was concerned about uniform cost.
Hayes said she has a limited income and might not be able to afford uniforms for both her grandchildren "because they will need more than one uniform each."
Coronado Principal Cathy Eiting assured Hayes there would be financial assistance for parents unable to afford the uniforms, "just like we help out kids now with regular school clothes if needed."
Berry said discussion surrounding uniforms was "much more animated" when the issue first came up three years ago.
"This is a parent initiative. Parents saw what some of the girls were wearing at school and came to the site council and asked us to do research into uniforms," Berry said.
Research was conducted over the next year, but Berry said the project was tabled last year when Eiting was appointed principal to allow her time to adjust to the school before reviving uniform discussion this year.
Peters said she wasn't sure why the meetings were so poorly attended or why the discussion is no longer energized.
"Perhaps people are realizing that uniforms are not that bad an idea," she said. "We've had the meetings so we can tell people we gave them a chance to offer input and have questions answered - if they don't come, we still had the meetings."
The next step for Coronado is mailing ballots to parents of kindergarten through seventh-graders, as well as parents of fifth-graders at Painted Sky Elementary, 12620 N. Woodburne Ave., Coronado's feeder for its middle school, Berry said. Those ballots, which ask for a simple 'yes' or 'no' vote concerning adopting uniforms, are due back Dec. 2. Coronado fourth-through-seventh-grade students and all Coronado teachers will cast ballots Friday.
Eiting emphasized that the school will do what the community wants, although parent input will carry more weight than student votes.
"The parent vote is what the Governing Board is most interested in," she said. "I also want to say that I'm not for uniforms one way or the other. But because Coronado's population is drawn from two radically different communities - Catalina and Rancho Vistoso - it is a school that is very well-suited for uniforms because they would be a leveler of sorts for the economic diversity."
The principal said that if the community votes against uniforms, "there will still be a change at Coronado next year - our dress code will be much more strictly enforced."
Berry said Coronado has about 20 students who "habitually violate dress code," but that most of the kids try to stay within the boundaries.
"I have to say we have more problems with girls than boys," he said, adding that he knows it is difficult to dress growing teens in anything that is stylish while still meeting dress code.
Peters said she has trouble shopping for her children "because what the stores have in stock isn't what we want in schools."
Adopting uniforms will not eliminate all dress code problems, Peters said.
"There will always be kids who push limits and there are a lot of decisions that would have to be made concerning the type of uniform adopted," she said. "But if we did go to uniforms I think it would standardize dress to the point that (dress code) violations aren't such a problem."
Each ballot mailed to parents will be stamped with the parents' name and address to allow the school to track who has voted. Berry said those parents who have not returned ballots by Dec. 2 will receive phone calls Dec. 3 in order to get 100 percent response from parents.
The Governing Board requests that 70 percent of parents be in favor of adopting uniforms before a school can approach the board with a request to adopt uniforms, Berry said.
Eiting said if the necessary votes in favor are received, the school would approach the board early next year for approval to proceed "to give our parents plenty of advance notice."
If the decision is made to go to uniforms, more public meetings will be held to discuss the type of uniform to be adopted.