My Opinion: Open Campus

By Eni Katrini
Staff Writer

Open campus was fairly common in high schools years ago and is currently common in many other countries where it is part of their culture for students to leave school during their lunchtime or arrive and leave according to their schedules. But now schools are limiting freedom or doing away with the open campus concept.
Here at NHS, students aren’t permitted to leave the school during lunch or any time for that matter.

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The front patio of NHS as it looks today. (Staff Photo)

Some students have the privilege of leaving school early as long as they’re in good standing academically and behaviorally and don’t have any afternoon classes. But why can’t they leave for lunch? NHS used to have open campus many years ago and apparently the school board had some change of heart and thought that it would be better for students to eat lunch in a loud, stuffy cafeteria.
Most of the general student population would agree to an open campus policy here in NHS. This would most likely only apply to upper classmen or seniors. And I don’t know if anyone noticed the outrageous prices in that school cafeteria. I understand they’re feeding us, but seriously, it’s not a five-star meal. I am fortunate to have reduced lunch, but most aren’t so lucky and have to pay $3.60 for a small sandwich and some carrots. Not to mention a bottle of water is $1.25. I’m not saying the school lunch is horrible, it’s decent considering school lunches have a reputation for being vile. But now imagine eating your $3.60 sandwich in a lunch room with food scattered across the floor and mashed bananas on the tables. Yes, it sounds very appetizing. And now imagine all of that and add some yelling in the background and some intense heat from too many bodies in a small area. Now we know no one is a big fan of eating in the cafeteria and we can’t give everyone the privilege of leaving the school for lunch, but why not the seniors who have spent 3 years eating there? They need to experience what it’s like to be responsible and open campus can help with that. Open campus not only offers students freedom of lunch choices and an escape from the chaos in the lunch room, but it also is preparation for college and the accompanying independence.
Colleges have open campus. Actually colleges have mostly open everything. You have to build your schedule around your classes and make time for studying and eating. No one in college is going to remind you to eat or provide you with food let alone arrive to class on time with your assigned work completed. Students have to be prepared for what’s to come. And what’s better than having open campus for upper classmen so that they can experience what it’s going to be like. The beauty of NHS is that there are enough eating establishments that you could go somewhere different everyday of the week. And they’re all within walking distance. Cutting out SSR for the seniors so that they can have the full 45 minutes to eat their lunch wouldn’t hurt anybody either. The seniors have spent 3 years devoted to reading in SSR, and they deserve to have some more trust and responsibility given to them to experience what college life will be like. Why not just give them 45 minutes to eat their lunch and get back to class on time?
But now we have issues with safety and security, which is probably the number one reason why open campus isn’t in effect for many high schools across the nation. With the growing violence and security of schools in question, most adults are in doubt as to whether open campus would be a good idea. According to the Center for Disease Control’s School Associated Violent Death Study, less than one percent of all homicides among school-age children happen on school grounds or on the way to and from school. This means a vast majority of students don’t experience school violence. Either way, nothing is in your control and you can’t always be too cautious. Paranoia is never a good thing, but most students at this age should have enough common sense to stay safe and know when something isn’t right. There really isn’t an argument here other than once the student leaves school grounds, it’s no longer the school’s responsibility. Whatever the student chooses to do will reflect on the student, not so much on the school. If the student decides to skip school, that’s their problem and one that can be handled with school officials, parents and revocation of open campus privileges. Open campus should be used to encourage responsibility. At NHS, certain seniors have the privilege to leave school early if they don’t have afternoon classes and need to report for work. According to the student handbook and Dean Tom Pompei, students can lose this “early dismissal” status if they are not in good academic standing, if they have suspensions from school, or if they have attendance issues. Seniors who have not met all graduation performance standards will forfeit their early dismissal privilege.
The same rule could easily be applied for open campus. College students are required to be on their own almost all the time. A college freshman and high school senior don’t have that many differences. In a couple of months most seniors would be on their way to college, so why not trust them and give them the same responsibilities that they will encounter in a couple of months anyway? With the school renovation project, there is talk of having ID cards that function as card keys to the building. These card keys are entirely programmable, and if a student has lost his right to leave school grounds, he would need to ring for re-admittance, and security could then handle the issue of leaving school grounds without permission.
Most school have tried to hold on to the open campus policy. Mainland Regional High School in New Jersey offers their students open campus. The same rules as the early dismissal policy in NHS apply as well to the seniors who are leaving the school for lunch. The truth of the matter is that NHS does give students the privilege to leave the school early as long as they are in good standing, yet they won’t allow those same students to leave the school for lunch. For the other schools offering open campus, the privilege can be removed at any time for any student who has attendance, academic or behavior problems, which is very similar to the policy that NHS has for early dismissal.
Most importantly, I think that seniors deserve to have this privilege. They have spent 3 years of their life in NHS working hard to become successful and hard working adults. Open campus would further their sense of responsibility as adults and give them some much needed time to relax during their last year of high school. They might as well end their high school experience on a good note and look back thinking, “Hey Naugatuck High School wasn’t THAT bad.”

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