Student uniforms have made their debut in several Long Beach public schools, but the crisp, matching attire is slow to catch on as children try to decide whether it is cool to wear what everybody else might be wearing.
Most students appear to be adopting a wait-and-see strategy before participating in the voluntary program, which was started last week at seven schools. Some students said they would prefer to wear plaid jumpers and the matching shorts and shirts, but added that they are not willing to lead the pack in wearing school uniforms.
"Hardly anyone is wearing them. I don't want to be the only one," said Jennifer Elguira, 12, an eighth-grader at Newcomb Elementary School. She said she has not decided whether she likes the new garments.
Newcomb parents ordered the highest number of outfits, about 155, according to Camille Crook, co-owner of Vicki Marsha Originals, which is selling the Long Beach uniforms. But few students were wearing their new outfits to class this week.
Jeannie Allen, a counselor at Willard Elementary School, said that few students are wearing the new uniforms at her school. "The response hasn't been very good," she said.
"Some teachers bought some, and the principal wore one last week," Allen said. "Hopefully, it'll catch on."
Gary Graves, principal at Hughes Middle School, said that less than 10% of the 1,300 students on his campus have purchased the uniforms. "We would have hoped that it would have been more," he said.
But Crook described sales as brisk at her Huntington Beach company. "Orders are coming in every day," Crook said. "I think kids have to see other kids in them."
Newcomb third-grader Erika Ranes, who wore her new plaid jumper and yellow blouse this week, is one such uniform pioneer. "I like it," she said. "It has pretty colors." Fifth-grader Stephanie Favro said she was teased about her plaid jumper and yellow blouse, but added that she has become resigned to wearing a uniform. She said her mother is insisting on it. "This one girl said I looked stupid," Stephanie said. "I told her, 'I really don't care what you think, it's what I think that's important.' "
But Jean-Michel Goupillaud, another Newcomb fifth-grader, wore a black pair of brand-name shorts and black polo shirt. "I think they (uniforms) stink," he said. "Why wear a uniform every day when you can choose what you want. You have to look good at school."
Educators proposed uniforms because they are concerned that children are spending too much energy--and too much of their parents' money--on school attire. The kids fret about what to wear, how to wear it, who has a cool-looking outfit and who doesn't.
Five elementary schools and two middle schools in the Long Beach Unified School District are offering the option of uniforms. They are Emerson, Kettering, McKinley, Newcomb and Willard elementary schools and Hughes and Washington middle schools. Several South Gate schools, including Bryson, Victoria and Tweedy elementary schools, have a similar program.
Long Beach principals said they hope the voluntary program that kicked off with the start of classes last week will create a more professional school environment, conducive to learning. They also expect the uniforms to cut down on gang attire.
"It certainly provides unity to a school," said Newcomb Principal Jan Leight. "It also helps with the issue of what's appropriate to wear to school."
The uniforms, which come in a school's colors, consist of several outfits. The choices include jumpers and skirts for the girls, at $26 per garment, and blouses that sell for $9, Crook said. The most popular outfit for both boys and girls consists of shorts, $11, and knit shirts, $10.50, she said.
"You can't buy anything in the stores for that amount," said Judy Cobett, whose niece attends Newcomb. "I think it's wonderful. But my niece is at the age where she doesn't think it's cool," she said.