The Miami-Dade County school system hopes to tap into a new $10 million state fund by establishing a mandatory uniform policy district-wide for students in kindergarten through eighth grade.
All the affected schools already use uniforms, officials say. The new policy just formalizes that practice so that the district is eligible for $10 per student under a state law that passed in the last legislative session.
Miami-Dade expects to make $2.5 million by adopting the policy, which includes new exemptions for students who have disabilities. The Miami-Dade PTA supported the changes.
“It was an easy lift to translate local school policy in K-8s to district policy,” said Superintendent Alberto Carvalho.
Before the changes approved Wednesday, parents at each school voted whether to require uniforms. District spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said every K-8 school in the district has decided to use uniforms. Still, some individuality remains: The color of the shirts and pants will be left up to each school.
Despite tight deadlines — school districts didn’t get guidelines on participating in the program until July 24 — Miami-Dade managed to put the policy in place in time to qualify for the money.
Miami-Dade already had a policy in place, and amended it by adding an emergency item to the school board’s regular agenda. By doing so, the changes don’t require multiple votes, with weeks in between.
The district says it will use at least some of the money to provide uniforms and services for needy students. Miami-Dade serves 6,000 homeless students, according to Carvalho.
Buying uniforms “is costly,” board chairwoman Perla Tabares Hantman said.
The state will pay school districts on a first-come, first-served basis. Districts have until Sept. 1 to certify that they have a uniform policy that qualifies under the state deadlines.
Also Wednesday, the district approved a land swap that could result in a district-run school being built in Doral where plans had originally called for a charter school. The school district is hoping to bring another traditional public school to the area, which is experiencing exponential growth in the number of families moving in.
In exchange for land in Doral, the district will give 25 acres in the West Kendall area to an affiliate of the home-building giant Lennar.
The land swap passed amid concerns by board member Marta Pérez Wurtz, who represents the area, that it would encourage more bedroom communities in traffic-clogged West Kendall. District officials said 85 new homes could be built on the land.
“The city of Doral will get a school whether or not we pass this item,” she said. “But the fact that the other community will get more traffic, more congestion, is not even being considered.”
The school board also approved a new graduate certificate program for Spanish teachers to address parent concerns about the quality of Spanish instruction in the district, and passed an anti-discrimination policy that applies to contractors for the school system.
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