Wallace Elementary opens this month with a new look: uniforms.

Although uniforms remain optional, school officials say nearly 90 percent of parents support the switch — the first of its kind in RISD — and hope the standardized dress will improve the school’s overall learning climate.

“We just want to do whatever we can do to provide our kids with a better educational environment,” says Teresa Gafford, principal at Wallace Elementary, 9921 Kirkhaven.

“Most believe it will help us do that.”

The Wallace Local School Council, a planning and advisory council and a decision-making group of staff, parents and neighborhood residents, began studying school uniforms last year.

The group discovered that Dallas-area schools with a uniform policy report positive results, including improved attendance, increased school spirit and unity, improved behavior, and fewer office discipline referrals.

Boys’ uniforms consist of navy shorts or pants and a navy shirt. Girls will wear a navy skirt paired with a white- or red-collared shirt.

Uniforms cost $12-$15 and can be purchased at stores such as Target, The Gap or Old Navy.

Of course, not everyone is happy about the new policy.

Former White Rock PTA President Melanie Cowlishaw believes the “volunteer” uniform policy will be difficult to enforce.

“I am not opposed to it, but it seems difficult to do if there’s not 100 percent participation,” Cowlishaw says.

At several meetings held to discuss the policy prior to its implementation, some neighborhood parents argued that uniforms unfairly limit students’ clothing choices. These parents argued that a dress code would be more appropriate.

But Wallace Elementary School PTA President Layne Lauck disagrees.

The adopted uniforms offer several choices, Lauck says, and a dress code would be a “waste of principals’ administrative time.”

“This is not written in stone,” Lauck says. “We will stay open to comments and concerns from parents and students.”

Lauck says one Wallace student who wasn’t enthusiastic about the uniforms became impressed after modeling them in an end-of-the-year school fashion show.

“She thought the uniforms were ‘neat’. The students seem really excited about this. We’re all really excited,” Lauck says.