In a press release announcing plans for the reopening of schools, Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) said students are highly encouraged to wear uniforms when they return to distance learning in three weeks.
Some schools will be requiring them. But that’s an unenforceable mandate, one that could – yet should not – unintentionally discourage students from fully participating in remote learning.
Miami-Dade public schools will open remotely on Aug. 31 using a five-days-a-week platform called My School Online. On Sept. 30, the school board will confirm whether or not students can physically return to class on Oct. 5.
M-DCPS spokesperson Jackie Calzadilla said uniforms provide a sense of routine and normalcy.
School uniforms, which parents often struggle to afford, are a considerable cost for families, even more so now during the coronavirus pandemic, which has worsened financial woes with job losses and the struggle to pay for necessities like food and housing.
“If a family is in need of assistance, the district’s School Uniform Assistance Program has been established to provide student uniforms to families who may be experiencing hardship,” Calzadilla said. “Parents may communicate a need for assistance by contacting their child’s school. District and school-site staff will work to address each request for uniform assistance.”
Ibiley Uniforms is feeling the shift of distance learning. The store, which is normally swamped with customers during this time of year, has seen a decrease in traffic.
“Our sales are down by, I would say, 70%,” said Vice President Lenany Barea. “It’s been a very hard hit for all of us but, like anything, we know it’s a time that everyone is going through and we just hope that we watch out for one another.”
The family-owned retailer operates seven stores and has provided uniforms for private, public and charter schools in Miami for more than 30 years. Recently implemented changes in response to COVID-19 include an updated website with a new look, online ordering in addition to free store pickup, and a family value package. The latter includes three polo shirts starting at $29.99 and three bottoms for $34.99.
Something the company has always done and is continuing to do is give a free welcome polo shirt to all new registered M-DCPS students.
“Our hope with that is to provide every child, should they not be able to afford it, the opportunity to start school with a brand-new polo [bearing their school’s] logo and feel a part of the community,” Barea said.
The families that Ibiley is seeing more frequently in its stores are for private and charter schools, which are exceeding district guidelines on dress codes.
Renaissance Charter School at Doral and Downtown Miami Charter School will be requiring uniforms.
Spokesperson Colleen Reynolds said the thought behind enforcing uniform wear is that “requiring uniforms reminds students that they are really going to school; it helps them focus on schoolwork and adds to a sense of normalcy in these decidedly abnormal times.”
KIPP Miami: Sunrise Academy and Liberty Academy are also asking students to wear uniforms during remote learning.
“We hand out uniforms to all of our new KIPP students. We’ve always done that, and we are doing it as a drive-through distribution event at our schools the week of Sept. 17,” KIPP’s Managing Director of Operations, Monica Kress, said.
At Miami Country Day School, uniforms are “encouraged, but not mandatory” for all students in their lower, middle and upper schools, according to spokesperson Paula Montoya.
Frank C. Martin International K-8 Center, part of M-DCPS, is one of the schools requiring, not just encouraging, uniform use.
An email sent to parents states “Please note that in addition to being prepared with supplies at home, all students will be expected to be in uniform for online and physical instruction throughout the school year.”