Middle Park High School closed campus policy draws support, criticism
October 23, 2009
Middle Park High School freshman Justas Mercinkevicius was sipping Gatorade at a Panther-purple picnic table outside of the school entrance on Wednesday.
Were he to go any farther, such as to the high school soccer fields, he would be denied his right to a list of classroom privileges, according to the school’s new open/closed campus regulations five weeks in the works.
“I hate it,” Mercinkevicius said. “Everyone dislikes it.”
The new policy states that freshman and sophomore students may no longer leave the campus for lunch. Meanwhile, juniors and seniors may if their privileges have not been revoked for reasons ranging from tardiness and unexcused absences, to bad grades and bad behavior.
Freshman and sophomore students who get their privileges revoked may no longer have classroom privileges, such as leaving the classroom for any reason during class. They also wouldn’t be able to take part in “double lunches” hosted by the school every third week.
Instead, they would be forced to go to study hall.
Oakley Ellis, a sophomore who last year could leave the school for lunch at will, said he misses the subs at Mad Munchies. Coltan Kissler, another sophomore, said being able to leave for lunch allowed “time to get a way from the atmosphere of school.”
“I don’t agree with it,” said freshman Ryan Powell. “I think we should be able to go off-campus. The businesses would get more money if we were let off campus, and teachers could actually have lunch instead of watching kids.”
Teachers take part of the new policy by policing students and taking turns guarding campus exit points.
But, according to Prinicipal Jane Harmon, “100 percent, the teachers are behind the new policy.”
Why? “Without a doubt, student behavior has improved,” Harmon said.
Teacher Tammy Glaser along with business teacher Brian Reynoldes, both who gave an update about the new policy to school board members on Tuesday, said the policy is working to curb unexcused absences and tardinesses, especially for juniors and seniors.
“Almost everyone is getting to class on time,” Reynoldes said.
About 10 students in each the senior and junior class have had privileges revoked since the start of the year.
And for freshman and sophomores, who have less incentive to do well than their junior and senior counterparts, the school’s Leadership Team is brainstorming ways to “get them inspired, with grades,” Reynoldes said.
Glaser told board members that the school has heard criticism from just two sets of parents who voiced disagreement with the new policy.
When Principal Harmon would walk down school hallways during classes last year, there would be students loitering in halls, she said. But now, “There are kids in classes. They’re in their classes engaged in content. You can’t tell me that’s a bad thing.
“Although (students) say they don’t like it,” she added. “I think a bulk of kids see a need for it.”
On Wednesday during Middle Park’s senior and junior lunch period, students Bailey Roberts and Suzannah Mikol sat a table at Mad Munchies.
“Privilege passes help keep our grades up,” Bailey said. “It’s definitely an incentive.”
“And, it helps some people try harder to get to class on time,” Mikol said.
“It doesn’t make a difference for the people who keep their grades up,” Bailey added, “but for people who are struggling between passing and not passing, it does make a difference. Some of them who don’t have good grades obviously are mad about it.”
Behavioral benefits from the new school policy are detected beyond the school’s limits. At the counter, Mad Munchies co-manager Mikey Landa said he’s seen an improvement in student behavior at his restaurant this year.
Before, lunching students sometimes were “loud and rude to customers, and wouldn’t respect other people in the restaurant,” he said.
More than once last year it escalated to the manager calling the school about particular students. But the school only “warned the students,” he said.
Since the privilege-pass policy has come about with the ability for a business owner to call the school about bad behavior – resulting in revoked off-campus lunch privileges – students noticeably have become, “more behaved,” he said.
– Tonya Bina can be reached at 970-887-3334 ext. 19603 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.