Students and staff at Theodore Lester Elementary School in Florence saw some major changes on the first day of classes Monday morning.
The school officially switched over to a school-wide uniform program this year, with kindergarten through sixth graders now wearing some variation of navy blue or white tops with khaki bottoms.
The uniforms come as part of Florence School District One's efforts to assess the potential impact of uniforms on schools throughout the district.
Officials at Lester Elementary decided last year, that they would volunteer to try out the uniform system in the hopes that it would make some significant, positive changes for their students and staff.
“I'd say we've got about 95 percent participation. The teachers are calm, the kids are calm, and everybody's checking everybody out and everybody looks basically the same…and that's a good thing,” Lester Elementary Principal, Dr. Gregory Mingo said Monday morning of the changes.
“It promotes a climate in which children are more engaged and happier to come to school because it's not about what I wear, it's about what I know and what I'm learning here,” said Lester Elementary School teacher, Vanessa Harkless.
The students, their parents and staff members were made aware of the impending uniform changes last year and were given information on where they could obtain the types of clothing that would fall under the uniform guidelines.
School and district administrators say they hoped that the uniforms would help to level out the economic playing field for parents, make students less stressed about their clothing choices or potential teasing or bullying and help to put the emphasis back on what's being taught in the classroom, rather than the distractions of attire.
“Now they can focus on their education, versus what they're wearing,” Harkless said.
School administrators worked to gather some items for a clothing bank at the school, for those parents who are unable to afford the uniforms.
District officials will observe the results of the uniform program at Lester, before deciding on any potential district-wide action on dress code changes.