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Parents, students say uniforms make school less stressful

SchoolBelles store manager Sandy Brutchecks out Mary AburChicago her daughters Joelyne (left) Arielle (center) both who attend Kinzie Garfield Ridge

SchoolBelles store manager, Sandy Bruton, checks out Mary Aburto, of Chicago, and her daughters Joelyne (left) and Arielle (center) both who attend Kinzie in Garfield Ridge at SchoolBelles, Saturday, August 9th, 2014, in Bridgview. | Gary Middendorf/for Sun-Times Media

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Updated: September 12, 2014 6:15AM



An informal survey of moms, dads and kids who were back-to-school shopping at Schoolbelles Uniform Shop in Bridgeview on Saturday revealed a universal truth: School uniforms make weekday mornings easier.

“There’s no anxiety about what you’re going to wear,” said Tiara Crowder, a junior at Mother McAuley High School. “You just get up and put on your uniform.”

More important, she added: “It gives us a sense of unity — we all are one. And the school doesn’t have to deal with people wearing inappropriate things.”

Tiara’s mother, Deborah Crowder, said that when you remove fashion from the equation, students have an easier time focusing on what really matters, their classes.

“I love uniforms,” said Linda Siegler, whose sons, James and Joseph, attend St. Michael’s School in Orland Park. “There’s no issue about what to wear, and all of the kids in the school look nice.”

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Americans spend $1.3 billion each year on school uniforms, with the average annual cost for parents reaching almost $250. Most of that spending comes in August when parents and students bring uniform lists to local stores.

With locations across the country, Schoolbelles long has been a destination for many such shoppers. The family owned business has been supplying school uniforms since 1956.

On this weekend afternoon, the Bridgeview store was bustling with customers from LaGrange Park, Riverside and Chicago, as well as the south suburbs.

Manager Sandy Bruton, who pitches in to help customers find items and then get checked out, said, “This is our busiest time.”

She works at a central register that is surrounded of black shelving packed with rows and rows of reinforced navy blue slacks, white and red polo shirts, sweatshirts, plaid jumpers and nylon sports jackets. The items are grouped by school.

Sales associate Corey Matson said most families buy two to three outfits.

“That way they’re doing laundry every other day,” she said.

Some schools, she said, change the required pattern every year and some have patterns or colors designated by grade level.

“Some communities and some schools offer swap programs at the end of the school year, so parents can come and trade items,” she said.

Katie Bradford and her mom, Trish Maher, traveled to Bridgeview from Chicago’s Beverly commmunity in search of khaki skirts for Katie’s freshman year at Marist.

“The clothes are durable, and wearing a uniform stops all that buying of name-brand things,” Maher said. “Plus it makes things consistent and sets a discipline so school officials don’t have to police clothing.”

Katie, who attended St. Cajetan grammar school and is accustomed to wearing a school-designated outfit, likes the fact that she won’t have to think about what to wear in the morning.

The only negative, she said, is that sometimes it can get boring. That’s where dress-down days, which allow students more choice, come in.

Beth Kowalczyk, of Lockport, grew up in Catholic schools. Her children, fourth-grader Brent and second-grader Grace, now attend her alma mater, St. Michael’s in Orland Park.

She likes the fact that uniforms add to the structured, disciplined environment that the school strives for.

“Students can be focused on the teacher and what’s she’s trying to accomplish instead of on what someone else is wearing,” Kowalczyk said.

Many public schools also require students to wear uniforms.

Rogelio Fernandez, of Chicago’s Clearing community, was shopping for blue pants for his son, Roberto, a sixth-grader at Nathan Hale Elementary School.

Not only does knowing what you’re going to wear make the mornings less stressful, Roberto said, it’s easier to spot schoolmates in a crowd, particularly on field trip days.

His dad added, “I just think the kids look nicer.”



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