Uniform discord leads to call for parent involvement

In the wake of recent confusion and
complaints about school uniform distribution, Deirdre Seymour is calling for a
little perspective.

As president of the John Gray home
school association, she and a small team of parents spent their free time this
summer organising the procurement of the new uniforms for the two new
government high schools, John Gray and Clifton Hunter.

She has been wondering why so many
parents were upset about the delay of the new uniforms, while so few worked up
front to ensure that the delivery and sale of the uniforms were checked off
this year’s massive to-do list.

“I don’t understand why there is
even an issue about the uniforms being late,” she said.

With two new high schools and the
year 12 program to tackle, it was a big job, she said, and the one-off effort,
while far from perfect, was eventually pulled off. The rest of the uniforms are
now available (see list below).

When the uniform shop at John Gray
opened on 2 September, parents spent hours waiting in the sun only to find out
many uniforms had not yet been delivered. They also complained about the timing
of the uniform pickup due to the heat, and that the opening hours meant they
had to take time off from work to be there.

“When the uniforms were on sale, we
asked parents politely to please wait in the shade, we asked them to please
take a number, but people were being unreasonable,” said Ms Seymour.

“But we are 20 people organising
this out of a group of parents responsible for 2,000 students. I think there is
nothing to debate here. Maybe if there were 200 parents, then we might have
something to discuss.”

The final shipment of uniforms has
arrived, though the latest update from the Ministry of Education advises that
students may wear approved clothing alternatives through the month of September.

Ms Seymour said unanticipated
manufacture and shipping delays prevented some items from arriving on the scheduled
date. She did not go into details about the reason for the delay, but voiced
concern that focus should be placed on the bigger issue, which is; parents
taking an interest in their children’s education.

“Why were they being like this over
such a minor issue as uniforms? We hold readings in Dart Park, where are the
parents then?” she said.

Chief Education Officer Shirley
Wahler said the Education Department acknowledged that for some parents the
opening of schools was made more stressful by the delay in the arrival of
uniforms at the home school association uniform shops.

But she pointed out that overall,
the major transformation in Cayman’s high schools has been smooth, and she
thanked the committed volunteers who organised the uniforms.

Ms Seymour noted that while the
ministry set out dress code guidelines for those children who did not have
their uniforms in time for the start of the school year, students were still
coming to school wearing clothes that are not permitted by the ministry’s guidelines.

However, at this point Ms Seymour
said she wants to put the uniform issue behind her and focus on the coming
year. She hopes that more parents will step up their involvement.

“We see parents two times a year.
Once when they come to pick up the uniforms and once when the kids graduate,”
she said.

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