Parents and teachers admit that the children at Moorpark's Arroyo West Elementary School are model students--well-behaved, studious and attentive.
Now they want to make them better-dressed, and they hope a new school uniform policy will do the trick.
It's not that the students are doing poorly, they say, it's that teachers want them to excel, and they hope that the clothes will spur better grades as students focus more on schoolwork and less on fashion.
"When you have a student that's getting a C+ you push them to get a B," Principal Juanita Rivera-Suarez said. "When you're getting an A you try for an A+. We don't just want to be better than other schools--we want to be the best."
Arroyo West is the second school in the county to adopt such guidelines, after Simi Valley's Garden Grove Elementary began a similar policy in September. Also, several schools in the Ventura Unified School District are discussing uniform guidelines, but will not take any action before surveying parents.
Monday, a committee of parents and students at Arroyo West picked the color schemes and items of clothing students may wear. Parents will receive the guidelines in the mail next week, and Rivera-Suarez expects to see students wearing the uniforms by January. She said she will wear one too.
"I grew up wearing uniforms at school," she said. "It's so much easier. It takes you about two minutes to get dressed in the morning and you don't have to worry about messing up your clothes."
Under the guidelines, students can wear navy blue or khaki shorts or pants, and blue sweaters or white shirts.
Also, girls may wear blue and green plaid skirts or jumpers.
Vests and school T-shirts are also allowed, along with several other approved accessories, Rivera-Suarez said. The clothes can be purchased from Target stores, the JCPenney catalogue and Kmart. A complete set will cost about $60.
Although schools often adopt uniform policies to attack discipline problems, Rivera-Suarez said her school is implementing the volunteer guidelines to improve education.
"We don't need to wait for problems to arise to act," she said. "We're always trying to do whatever we can to make the school better."
Rivera-Suarez and parents on a special committee conducted a survey of several schools in Los Angeles and Orange County that have adopted uniform policies, and principals and parents said students were more focused on learning after the uniform policies were initiated.
In a survey at Arroyo West, more than 70% of the 90% of the parents questioned, said they supported the voluntary uniform policy.
But several said they did not like the idea of their children being told what to wear.
"We want to emphasize that we're not telling anyone what to wear," said parent Carol Sanders, who served on the committee drawing up the uniform guidelines. "There are no consequences if a child does not wear the uniform, and no rewards given if they do."
Kristin Smith, a fifth-grader and student body president at the school, said while she supports the new guidelines, she is in the minority.
"Kids want the clothes they want to wear," she said. "I think a lot of the students think the uniforms will be ugly, but I like them. I think they're cute."
Students probably will wear the uniforms because their parents want them to, she said, and will grow to like them.
"I don't know how much it will help make the school better," Kristin said. "But I think it would help bring everybody together."