Assistance League sets goal of providing 10,000 local students with school uniforms

Photo by Patricia Pollock

Members of Assistance League of Long Beach fit local students for uniforms as part of its philanthropic program Operation School Bell.

Operation School Bell, a philanthropic program of Assistance League of Long Beach, is celebrating its 40th year of service to students in the Long Beach Unified School District (LBUSD) whose families cannot afford new uniforms. Started in 1974 by Rick Rackers Auxiliary of Assistance League of Long Beach, Operation School Bell has clothed more than 70,000 children in the LBUSD in grades kindergarten through 12th, according to the Assistance League. The program’s current goal is to provide 10,000 students in need (6,667 elementary school and 3,333 middle- and high-school students) with free, new school uniforms during the 2014-2015 school year.

Operation School Bell’s year kicked off in June 2014, when Rick Rackers Auxiliary members provided 2,000 backpacks filled with new school uniforms to kindergarten-bound Head Start and Child Development Center children. Next week, Rick Rackers Auxiliary and other Operation School Bell volunteer members will be measuring incoming students during their 6th-grade orientation days at Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Lindbergh, Hamilton, Hudson, Stephens, and Nelson middle schools. The new uniforms will be delivered to students shortly after the start of the school year.
Since 1994, LBUSD has mandated a school-uniform policy, in response to youth crime and student achievement problems. In order to implement the uniform policy, the one concession to be made was that students whose families could not afford new uniforms would receive a new uniform at no cost. LBUSD officials met with Assistance League of Long Beach leadership to discuss the possibility of expanding Operation School Bell’s program services. Since that time, Operation School Bell is the only community program providing this “safety-net” of free school uniforms, according to Assistance League.
“Operation School Bell has been and is one of the key factors that make our students so successful in their academic achievements,” said LBUSD Superintendent Chris Steinhauser. “School uniforms help to create a school community and foster self-esteem and pride among our students. Other district superintendents often ask how we can maintain our school-uniform policy, and I tell them that they need an Assistance League in their community. LBUSD and Assistance League of Long Beach have a longtime partnership in helping to create brighter futures for our children.”
The average cost of the uniforms is $70 per student. Assistance League of Long Beach provides elementary children with two complete uniforms that include two polo shirts and two pairs of pants or skorts, three pairs of socks and underwear, and a jacket. Middle and high school students receive three uniform shirts, two pairs of pants, and a sweatshirt. The students also receive school supplies and backpacks whenever available and needed.

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Source: Assistance League

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