Eastern board approves implementation of gym uniforms

The attire, which will go into effect next year, will cost $20 for students.

Photos courtesy of Eastern Regional High School

At its latest meeting, the Eastern Regional High School Board of Education approved the implementation of gym uniforms that must be worn by all students during physical education classes.

Mandates of the school-issued attire, which includes a cardinal-colored T-shirt with complementing navy shorts, will go into effective at the start of the 2018–2019 school year.

The entire ensemble will cost students $20 and can be purchased at the school store, online web store or during freshman orientation, which is scheduled for Aug 22 to 24. The district’s initial down payment for uniforms will be covered through student purchases.

Students eligible for the federal free or reduced lunch program are entitled to financial assistance for the uniforms upon request.

District officials say Eastern students’ adaptation to the uniforms should be fairly smooth, as Voorhees Township Public Schools and Berlin Borough Schools also enforce gym attire.

Superintendent Dr. Harold Melleby says mandating gym uniforms have been considered since he started at Eastern in 2000.

Eastern Regional Athletic Director Jason Hill presented the board reasons behind the decision to establish designated attire during physical education classes, including hygiene, appropriateness and security.

He says the majority of students remain in the same attire after gym class throughout the school day, which often causes an odor.

“We want to teach them life-long habits,” Hill said.

As far as proper attire, students sometimes attend physical education classes wearing clothes that aren’t suitable for fitness, like shorts that are too baggy or short, which he says can often lead to interference among one another and instructors.

“If everyone is comfortable wearing the same thing, you limit those distractions and can be more focused on instruction,” Hill said. “We also just like the idea of uniformity — everyone being the same.”

Conforming clothing could also satisfy security management, particularly during open lunch periods, as over the past several board meetings, parents and students voiced concerned about lockdown procedures, also referred to as active shooter drills, that are scheduled during these blocks of times.

With health and physical education students being distinguishable through the uniforms, it could make it easier to identify a suspicious individual.

Shirts will also feature a blank spot intended for students to write their names.

From grades nine to 12, about 14 health and gym classes are held during the same period, encompassing about 400 students scattered throughout the athletic gyms, fields and courts at one time.

“The more we can account for where our students are and where they should be on campus, the safer we are,” Hill said. “So, again, I think a huge benefit of this is being able to identify who belongs on our campus and if someone does not.”

Although students are encouraged to purchase the uniforms, they are allowed to wear alternative T-shirt and short brands, such as Nike, as long as the attire is similar to Eastern’s established colors.

However, if students attend class without the uniform or appropriate substitute clothing, they are still permitted to perform athletic activities but will lose participation points in physical education classes.

“We do not want this uniform policy to discourage participation,” Hill said.

In other news:

  • The district purchased new locks for the double front doors of the building’s main entrance. The second set of locks is specifically for the second set of doors. With this addition, visitors will have to be buzzed in by both doors. Ideally, there will be a table in the vestibule between both doors where parents can drop off items.
  • The board added various technological and facility expenses to the district’s 2018–2019 budget. The school will spend close to $101,000 for 57 Apple iMac desktop computers and other related parts that will be used for the CAD program. The district will spend an additional $316,000 on a network infrastructure upgrade from Troxell Communications. Other purchases include $38,000 for a new theater sound system and close to $152,000 for new LED lighting in certain classrooms and workrooms.
  • Keith Werth was approved as the new head girls basketball coach for the 2018–2019 school year.
  • Sophie Yue was named scholar of the month.
  • For the second month in a row, there have been no HIB reports throughout the district.