Cherry Hill Elementary School, the south Baltimore school that pioneered uniforms for public elementary schoolchildren in the region in September, has won widespread national attention, including a spot on NBC's "Today" show last Friday.

"I've gotten calls from all over the country from people wanting to know how we do it," said William Howard, principal of the 387-pupil school. It's very simple, he said: "The parents want it, the school staff and administration want it, and now the kids want it."

Designed to cut clothing costs and reduce social pressure among clothes-conscious youngsters, the uniform program was inaugurated in September at Cherry Hill, followed closely by two other Baltimore elementary schools and Burrville Elementary School in Northeast Washington.

Howard said attendance is up and discipline problems are down at Cherry Hill, and he said he thinks that the uniforms have something to do with it. "The kids take pride in the uniform," he said. " . . . It creates a positive image."

Similar to uniform programs in many Roman Catholic and private schools, the Cherry Hill program is believed to be one of the first in the nation for a public elementary school. The uniform consists of navy blue jumpers and blouses for the girls and blue slacks, dress shirts and neckties for the boys.

The cost: $30 per uniform, plus $18 to $20 for shoes.

Most children in the largely black, low-to-moderate-income school neighborhood now have at least one uniform, said Howard. Children and teachers continue to be enthusiastic, he noted. "It wipes out the {clothes} competition in the classroom," he said.

Howard said his office has been besieged with inquiries from school administrators and parent groups across the continent.

The interest, he said, appears to have been triggered by a burst of news stories in September about the program, followed by features in such national magazines as Time and People as well as features on Cable Network News and NBC television.