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Caroline ponders uniform policy

David Storke came before the Caroline County school board Monday not as the mayor of Bowling Green, but as a private businessman.

He told the board that the widely held perception of those outside of the county is that Caroline schools are subpar.

“Our businesses will never grow unless more people want to come to Caroline County,” he said. “We operate businesses in a difficult time. We operate businesses in a small, rural county. It’s a daily struggle. One thing that affects our businesses is our school system, either positive or negative.”

Joining Storke were other business owners in Caroline County, including Will Gravatt of G&G Ace Hardware, Mike Manns of Pitts & Manns Realty, Evan Stout of Evan’s Heating and Air, Allen Brown of Caroline Cleaners and Jared Beasley, owner of Beasley Harvesting.

Storke said that the Caroline Chamber of Commerce did a study in 2006 on how the local school system was perceived.

He said everyone polled from outside Caroline had a negative perception of the division.

He cited commanders at Fort A.P. Hill who chose to live in Spotsylvania over Caroline because of the school systems.

He said that looking into the division, he did not find a stark contrast when comparing tests scores with neighboring localities or more violence in Caroline’s schools.

The county does, however have a higher than average teen pregnancy and obesity rate.

Storke said he feels the negative perception of the school system is baseless, but something has to be done about it.

His solution to the perceived problem is school uniforms.

“We don’t know of anything that will garner attention and press that will say this group is serious about making changes [like uniforms will],” he said.

Storke cited studies by the U.S. Department of Education on school uniforms decreasing violence, gangs and theft, instilling students with discipline, helping concentration, reducing peer pressure and allowing the administration to easier identify intruders.

Storke said uniforms will put students on an even playing field as well.

He said that growing up in King George County, he wished his school had uniforms.

“My parents never bought me fashionable clothing and I remember how hard it was to not have cool shoes, to be made fun of,” he said.

He said that buying school uniforms will also be more cost-effective for families than buying trendy clothing every school year.

“I feel like it is a win–win, that it is a drastic thing, a drastic measure,” Storke told the board. “Have the nerve to make a drastic change.”

Superintendent Gregory Killough said he thinks uniforms “merit looking into.”

He said he and at least one member of the school board will meet with Storke’s group next week to learn more about what they would like to implement.

He then hopes to form a committee made of board members, staff and members of the community to discuss uniforms.

“This is still in an early stage,” Killough said. “A lot still needs to begin in this discussion.”

Storke said he’s glad the school board liked the idea and he hopes to see uniforms in schools during the next school year.

Lindley Estes: 540/735-1976