FARGO — An impending change in the student uniform policy at St. John Paul II Catholic Schools has some parents upset with the potential cost involved, as well as how the district arrived at its decision to change the policy.
But for now the district is sticking with its plan, according to Mike Hagstrom, school president, who said Bishop John Folda of the Fargo Catholic Diocese, who has ultimate authority on all school matters, supports the decision.
The district informed parents last summer that it will be changing its student uniform policy starting next year. For the most part, the change will require families to buy only Tommy Hilfiger apparel as the official school uniform.
Hagstrom said the change was necessary because the current uniform policy, in place since the mid-1990s, has come to include so many options that it has become difficult for school officials to monitor and enforce.
"This takes away from our central mission of teaching and undermines the high expectations of our code of conduct," Hagstrom told parents in a letter in June.
Hagstrom said the current school year is intended as a transition period and students have the option of staying with the current dress code, or adopting the new uniform policy early.
He said the district has heard from parents, both pro and con, regarding the upcoming change, and as a result the district decided to modify the new policy for elementary students, who will be allowed to wear shorts and pants made by brands other than Tommy Hilfiger as long as they are khaki or navy blue.
Hagstrom said the compromise recognizes the greater wear and tear on clothing of younger students, as well as the speed with which some children outgrow their clothes.
In a letter to families this fall, Hagstrom said he is aware that some people have asserted the policy change reflects a desire to force out lower-income families, a view that Hagstrom said "breaks my heart."
Hagstrom said in the same letter that the district will work with any family to make the uniform transition doable.
Families can find uniform options at the uniform shop at www.globalschoolwear.com, which is the school uniform division of Tommy Hilfiger. Families receive the school's code to actually shop on the website.
According to the school district, all uniform items must have the school logo and be purchased through the website, except for pants and shorts for elementary students.
Based on prices found on the website, outfitting a seventh-grader with a long-sleeved polo shirt and a pair of khaki pants would cost $18 for the shirt and $25 for the pants.
A parent who's spoken publicly about her displeasure with the new policy has said the cost of a new uniform wardrobe for her student will be about $1,100.
Parents have also voiced concerns about the amount of input families were allowed to give prior to the policy being adopted.
Hagstrom said parents have served on the district's uniform committee, which he said reached an impasse when it came to finding solutions to issues with the existing dress code.