2011-09-08 / News

School panel gets strict on Lawn Avenue dress code

BY MARGO SULLIVAN

Showing cleavage could land students in detention this school year at Lawn Avenue School where a new dress code for the youngsters went into effect.

Isabel Jepson, the front office secretary at the school, said the code was really the same as before and was just being formalized. Kathleen Almanzor, the school principal, did not return telephone calls for an interview about the changes.

Jepson said the school had already provided the dress code to parents. Student violators face a sliding scale of “consequences,” starting with a verbal warning – and an order to change clothes – for a first offense, up to an out-of-schoool suspension for a sixth offense. Detention starts with the third offense.

According to the document, outlawed attire includes halters and revealing tank tops. Leggings and tights are considered underwear and must be worn concealed under other garments. Students cannot sport hats or hoods inside the building, and pajamas, bedroom slippers and sleeveless T-shirts also are not acceptable. Dresses, shorts and skirts must be worn at mid-thigh, and pants have to fit at the waistline, not showing underwear. See-through tops and mesh jerseys are also code violations, along with blouses and shirts that expose the shoulder.

T-shirts and other garments are also outlawed if they show words seeming to encourage alcohol or drug consumption. Sexually explicit words or symbols also are not allowed, and students cannot display body art.

In cases of a disagreement over the possible dress code violation, school offi cials have the final say.

A dress code matters, according to the one-page statement sent home to parents. Research by the National Association of School Principals and National School Safety Services shows that school security, academic performance, school climate and classroom discipline all improve when schools uphold a standard.

Clothing is expected to be “clean, and size appropriate,” according to the dress code.

School officials mentioned the new dress code during the last School Committee meeting.

Jamestown schools also put parents on notice about missing school and tardiness. Superintendent of Schools Marcia Lukon said she sent parents a letter urging them to observe the school calendar and not take children out of school on vacation when classes are in session. Lukon said the 2011-12 calendar includes two long weekends – per professional development days – and two longer-than-usual school vacations, so parents should have some flexibility planning ski trips and other getaways. Deborah Gist, the state education commissioner, had complained Jamestown absentee rates were too high, Lukon said.

School Committee member Sav Rebecchi thought the letter might be too harsh. He suggested rewording it, but School Committee Chairwoman Cathy Kaiser said the adults know the longstanding issues over vacations. Some people deliberately plan a trip for a week when airfares are lower, regardless of the school schedule, she said. Parents are also the big part of the problem when children are late at Melrose Avenue School, school officials said.

Jepson said Lawn Avenue School so far had not received any feedback from parents about the letter.

Parents eventually will be able to receive their children’s report cards electronically. In fact, they will have to make a special request in the future to receive report cards the old-fashioned paper way. The new Student Information System is “up and running,” Lukon said, and teachers are learning how to use the electronic grade book. While they’re breaking in the new system, school leaders have decided to wait until after the second term to give parents access.

In other business, Michael Embury, North Kingstown’s town manager, asked Jamestown to make bond payments as part of the financial arrangement for island students to attend North Kingstown High School. Lukon and Kaiser informed him the bond payments are not part of the current agreement with the North Kingstown School Committee.

Jamestown’s position is that all negotiations about tuition prices were conducted by the two school committees, and not the North Kingstown Town Council. Lukon described the meeting with Embury as cordial. Embury had presented a letter from Gist and said the commissioner was authorizing the North Kingstown Town Council to require bond payments, but Kaiser and Lukon said this was a mistake. The commissioner’s letter addressed a different issue, they said.

North Kingstown’s School Committee has painted a “dire” financial picture for 2012 and 2013, according to School Committee member Julia Held. Held, the liaison to the North Kingstown School Committee, also reported the search for a new school superintendent is complete, and interim superintendent Phil Auger has taken the job permanently. Auger went through two public interviews, she said, before the panel opted not to continue a search for a new leader.

Meanwhile, Jamestown is continuing to consider other high schools. Narragansett, Portsmouth and East Greenwich are in talks with the school superintendent about accepting Jamestown students. All of those districts’ superintendents have said they have room and would be interested in a tuition arrangement.

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