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York City board quibble on STEAM school uniform

Junior Gonzalez
York Dispatch

Several York City school board members expressed disapproval over the planned color scheme of student uniforms to be worn at the new Edgar Fahs Smith STEAM academy.

Dr. Eric Holmes, right, faces York City board member Michael Breeland, far left, as they discuss uniforms for the Smith STEAM School on Wednesday June 21, 2017 in York City.


Before voting on starting revocation proceedings for Helen Thackston Charter School at the June 21 meeting, board member Michael Breeland asked discipline director Lulu Thomas about the uniforms planned for the STEAM academy, which will open this fall.

She said the chosen color scheme was “maroon/burgundy,” to which Breeland responded by asking why administrators didn’t choose a consistent color scheme for the district.

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“We wanted to have the STEAM program be unique,” interjected district superintendent Eric Holmes.

“I thought we were going for continuity,” said board member Juanita Kirkland. “We would (like to) take pride in what the STEAM academy offers to the district so we can make that connection ... so we can take credit for what’s going on there,”

“We will take credit,” Holmes said. “They’re still Bearcats, but we want to highlight a program that we believe is going to be fantastic.”

He said administrators wanted to give STEAM students a sense of “pride” and “specialness” for being the first cohort to enter the program.

“We want it to be a centerpiece for our school district,” he added.

The new academy will open in the former Edgar Fahs Smith Middle School and will focus on a program of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

“I just can't get past this concept in my head,” Breeland said. “For me, it’s setting up to be a sense of elitism and separatism, and I can’t shake that feeling."

Although board member Lois Garnett found the matter to be a “trivial point,” the former York City schoolteacher also disapproved.

“I don’t see maroon as being a Bearcat, I’m sorry,” she said.

Board member James Sawor said the colors were "off-brand" and he didn't get it.

If the board chooses, they may pull the color design at a future meeting, according to Sawor.

Board President Margie Orr was in support of the change. She said many districts with similar STEAM schools provide students with unique shirts.

"I don’t care what colors you’re wearing, you’re still a Bearcat," she said.

During the exchange, Holmes announced an open house at the new Smith STEAM Academy on Texas Avenue on Aug. 9. The event will be open for all community members.