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Bester shirts slowly catch on

October 02, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

As cooler weather moves in, some students at Bester Academy are ignoring their short-sleeved uniform shirts in favor of warmer clothes, but the school plans to sell long-sleeved Bester shirts to students, who overall are adjusting to the new look, the school's principal said Tuesday.

This year Bester Elementary School became the first of Washington County Public Schools to ask students to wear a school uniform: Their own trousers with a green or white polo short-sleeved shirt embroidered with the words "Bester Academy." The students are asked to wear their uniform four days a week. On Wednesdays, students have the option of wearing their own clothes.

Principal Drenna Reineck had hoped to start this week keeping track of the number of students wearing uniforms, but since the school recently sold out of the shirts for the fourth time, she said some students are still waiting for shirts in small and medium sizes.

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Until she knows that most students have the shirts, there will be no disciplinary action for failure to wear them, she said.

"For some kids, their behavior is wonderful now," Reineck said. "Is it related to the uniforms? I don't know."

Teachers have handed out respect and responsibility tickets to students wearing the uniforms.

On a recent day, most of the students walking through Bester's corridors weren't wearing the uniforms. Reineck attributed that to the shortage of smaller shirts and to the weather that day, which was in the mid-60s.

Reineck said she's suggesting that in colder weather students wear turtlenecks or long-sleeved shirts under their uniform T-shirts, but she wants to sell Bester Academy sweatshirts at $10 each and long-sleeved Bester Academy shirts, probably for about $5, the cost of the polo shirts.

Out on the playground during recess, many of the school's fifth-graders donned their green Bester polos.

Gary Moser, 10, a fifth-grader, said, "I'm participating for Mrs. Reineck because she's asking us to wear our shirts to represent our school."

Fifth-grader Kayla Hawbaker, 11, who was wearing a green Bester Elementary School T-shirt, which also is acceptable as a uniform, said she wears a Bester shirt every day except Wednesdays.

The uniforms are part of a plan to narrow the gulf between students from low-income homes and those from more affluent families, Reineck has said.

Uniforms were part of the equation to "have high expectations of everyone" under a program that will introduce free academic after-school programs to students. Bester Elementary School was renamed Bester Academy under this premise.

Reineck said many polo shirts have been given to families who can't afford to buy them.

Reineck has said that about 73 percent of Bester's students qualify for free and reduced-priced meals, a discount given to students whose families are low income, have a number of children or a combination of both.

At least one student took it upon himself to buy his own Bester Academy T-shirt.

David Martinez, 10, a fourth-grader, gave the school's secretary $5 for a shirt. The school gave him two shirts for the price of one for his initiative.

David said he got $10 for his birthday and decided it was important to buy a shirt because it shows his pride for the school.

"We're special in our own shirt-wearing way," Gary said.

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