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Administrators hope to promote pride, academics with uniforms

When Niagara Street Elementary School's 500-plus students return to school in September, they'll not only come back to a brand new school -- they'll be wearing uniforms.

School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto announced that development to the Niagara Falls School Board on Thursday night, but had no details on what the uniforms will look like -- or even the color.

Contacted late Thursday night, Principal Paulette Mombert-Pierce said her students will be sporting "blue and gold, collared, polo-style shirts" that contain the school's "friendly tiger" mascot on the left chest along with the school's name and its motto "Building Dreams, Minds & Futures."

Niagara Street Elementary will be the second public school in the city's history to have its students don uniforms. Henry J. Kalfas Magnet School was first to do that last September using similar blue polo shirts with a baby wolverine in gold on the chest along with the school's name.

The only other public school in Niagara County to have uniforms is the new Niagara Charter School in Wheatfield, which started up last September. Its students wear gray polo shirts with the logo of the Niagara River's fast-moving waters and the school's name on the chest.

Mombert-Pierce said the idea popped up in January after several parents made the suggestion and Niagara Street's teachers backed it all the way.

"We started looking at the idea and conducted a survey of parents. Eighty-four percent of them favored the idea," Mombert-Pierce said. After five months of discussion and the recommendation of the school's uniform committee, the School Quality Council -- made up of parents, teachers, administrators and community members -- approved the idea and informed Granto the deed was done, she said.

Mombert-Pierce said uniforms will not be mandatory.

The shirts will cost $10 each and can be ordered through the school throughout the summer, starting next week.

With 90 percent of her pupils considered economically deprived, she said the school is setting up a fund to help provide shirts to children whose parents cannot afford them.

She said the kids liked the idea of the uniforms.

"We showed the tiger logo to the fifth-graders to make sure it was all right. We were afraid the tiger might be too cute-looking for the kids, but they liked it," Mombert-Pierce said.

She said the shirts will be worn with blue khaki slacks or blue jeans, which parents purchase on their own.

"We did that because we don't want to stress parents out over this. We want to make it affordable and easy for them," she said. "We're including blue jeans as part of the uniform because people have a lot of blue jeans at home so it's practical."

She said the parents and teachers who pushed the idea felt uniforms would serve "to unify the pupils, make them more identifiable, foster pride in their school . . . and inspire them to do well." It also should help them focus on instruction by offering less distraction, which kids face when they are comparing clothing or being teased about clothing, Mombert-Pierce said.

"We think it will make it easier for our kids to focus on academics" and, in the long run, make it less expensive for parents to dress their kids for school.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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