An open campus, at least for now

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate September 02, 2013 08:04 pm

District considers making some teens stick around for lunch

Teenagers will be able to seek off-campus options for lunch when Del Norte High School opens Tuesday, but changes may be coming that will force at least some of them to stay on campus.

School Board members last week directed the staff to research whether high school students should be forced to stay on campus during lunch and how that would work.

That will include getting input from parents and high school students.

All high-schoolers, including freshmen and sophomores, are currently allowed to leave campus during the 40-minute lunch period.

“We’re in a research mode right now,” said DNHS Principal Coleen Parker. “We’ll be talking to parents and talking to students and collecting information from other school sites and make a decision on how that will look.”

In the past, Parker has come before the Board with the idea of keeping freshmen on campus at lunchtime. At last week’s meeting, she presented a list of issues for Board members to consider, including where students would go when they finished eating, whether there is enough space or staff to deal with a larger number students staying on campus and if multiple lunch periodswould be necessary.

Another thing to consider is the number of ways to enter and exit the high school, Parker said.

“We have 15 exits and three administrators,” she said. “How are we going to physically man that and deal with that? That’s another issue.”

For the most part, students leaving campus for lunch are juniors and seniors, since they are more likely to have transportation, Parker said. Freshmen and many sophomores tend to stay on campus. If they decide to get lunch off-campus, they’re usually found at the Patriot gas station at Northcrest Drive and Washington Boulevard or at the Silly Susie’s food truck, which parks across the street, Parker said.

Complaints and disturbances stemming from the current open campus are minimal. Teachers sometimes have to shoo teens away from the food machines at College of the Redwoods, Parker said. Once, teens were made to clean up a mess they had made at the Patriot gas station, but it’s not a huge issue, she said.

“I am more concerned with kids walking across the street to Silly Susie’s and getting in cars with other students,” she said. “The fact that we can have a 14-year-old girl get in a car with an 18-year-old guy and leave campus for an hour ... Those are my concerns.”

Board member Lori Cowan, who asked Parker to make a presentation about whether the high school should be open or closed at lunch, said she was interested because she saw how other high schools are serving lunch to kids.

Cowan said all of the schools she looked into make most students stay on campus at lunchtime. None of the schools were in this region, she said.

“Everything that our kids are leaving, getting into cars and driving away to Safeway or Taco Bell or Walmart to grab, they’re doing it in schools,” Cowan said. “We could be making money and keeping the kids on campus and not driving around and eating healthier. My thought was to get it started now.”

Closing the campus all at once wouldn’t make sense, Cowan said, adding she thought seniors should still be allowed to get lunch off campus.

Joe Hamilton Elementary School teacher Amber Cron, a representative of the Del Norte Teachers Association, said she has heard of a policy at other high schools that holds juniors and seniors responsible if they take a younger student off campus.

“You are held accountable because an upper classman should know better,” she said. “No one wants their 14-year-old daughter, or son for that matter, gone with no-one-knows who and then take a chance on them not coming back on time.”

Parker said she’s already spoken to some parents who would like the campus to be closed at lunch. But, she said, a broader survey is needed.

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