MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee Public Schools students will soon have to ditch their jeans and name-brand shirts. The school board voted Thursday evening, February 23rd to implement a district-wide dress code that requires students to wear uniforms beginning this fall.
A total of 51 schools in the district already require students to wear uniforms to class. Now the remaining schools will do the same, but this new policy does allow for some flexibility to make the process as easy as possible for families.
When MPS officials crafted a district-wide uniform policy, they knew there would be exemptions to every rule.
"We didn't want to just hammer down a mandated policy," said Matthew Boswell, Senior Director of the Department of Student Services.
The policy requires students in all 150 schools to wear a collared shirt and khaki or dress pants. An entire school can choose not to wear uniforms as long as at least 66 percent of staff, students and parents are in agreement. Individual students have that option as well under different criteria.
"A parent can file a letter of exemption to the principal tell the reason why they believe as the parents of that student that their student should opt out of the uniform policy," Boswell said.
While families will be responsible for paying for the clothes, Boswell says more than $1 million will be set aside in the budget for those in need of financial help. That translates to approximately $20 per student -- enough for one full outfit.
"The direction of the district is that we wanted to make sure that a family or an individual student was having problems purchasing a uniform, that we can give them a push start and provide for them to purchase that first one," Boswell said.
"This is intended to help mitigate the effects of poverty or high mobility, this is not intended to intensify that," said Milwaukee Public Schools Superintendent Darienne Driver.
During Thursday's School Board meeting, Driver assured that students will not be punished for showing up without a uniform. Back-up shirts and washers and dryers will be available at each school if uniforms are dirty.
"They will not, under any circumstances, not be allowed in the building or not be allowed to learn because of a uniform," said Driver.
Since the budget won't be finalized until later this spring, district officials say they don't know at this point where the funds for the uniforms will come from.