French Prairie provides PE uniforms to students free of cost
After years of fundraising, every student at French Prairie Middle School now has a physical education uniform provided to them for free.
The push to provide uniforms to the kids came about because the school's PE teachers noticed that many of the school's students didn't have adequate "dressing down" clothes for PE.
"They'd wear their school clothes," said Dawn Peterkin, one of the teachers who worked to provide the uniforms. "They weren't following the expectations. It could be that they don't have PE clothes. It could be that they're too shy to ask to borrow them."
Because the Woodburn School District is a Title I district under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 — which means that most of the students are low-income — schools in the district aren't allowed to require parents to purchase uniforms.
But dressing down is a standard requirement for middle school PE In years past, that meant there was some tension between the kids who could afford nice PE clothes and the ones who couldn't.
"A lot of kids didn't have adequate PE clothes, whereas some kids had the best name brands from head to toe," Peterkin said. "It added a little division in classes. Now that we're able to provide every kid with a uniform, you'll notice that all kids wear them."
The uniforms were purchased with money raised by the school's annual Fun Run, which takes place each spring and raises funds for PE equipment.
Students raise the money by getting sponsors for the run, either raising a certain amount per lap run or receiving a flat donation.
Last year, the teachers started rolling out the program slowly by only providing the uniforms to some of the sixth-grade classes. Now, all students in PE have a uniform to wear.
The uniforms come with some rules. The students are instructed to wash them twice a week, and must pay a small fee to replace any lost uniforms. If students can't afford to replace the uniform, they can earn the replacement by helping out after school.
Peterkin also keeps some extra uniforms in her office, in case the kids forget theirs at home.
Peterkin thinks the uniforms will last for at least a few years, though the t-shirts might wear out faster than the shorts. She hopes that sometime down the line the school will be able to invest in higher-quality uniforms.
Peterkin said that some students were unhappy at first about the change, but now they're used to the new standards. "The kids aren't like, 'Yay, we're wearing uniforms,'" Peterkin said. "But I think they understand why they're wearing them."
Indeed, in a recent seventh-grade PE class, every student was wearing the uniforms. Not everyone was excited about how they looked, but students seemed to understand the reason behind them.
"Maybe if you don't have gym clothes it would be pretty good," said Samantha Herrera, a seventh-grader. "It's mostly about responsibility. You have to keep it and wash it."
"I wouldn't like to have my own clothes," added Jaquelyn Contreras, also a seventh-grader.