School Board considers a closed campus at WHS
Would forcing students to remain on the Winslow High School campus for lunch be an affront to their freedom or in the best interest of their safety?
That’s the question that the school administration and teachers, parents and students have been discussing for the upcoming school year. On April 20, Principal Doug Watson presented the idea of a closed campus to the Winslow Unified School District Governing Board based on discussions the Site Council has had over the past few months.
Watson said there are still a lot of questions that haven’t been resolved yet and that the idea is not a done deal.
The proposed closed campus idea is designed to cut down on tardiness and absenteeism as well as discipline problems. The bigger issue is the students’ safety.
“It’s really the big issue,” Watson said. “If they’re not out and around town they won’t encounter people who might be a hazard to them.”
There has not been overwhelming support from parents and students nor has there been an upwelling of disapproval.
The compromise on the Site Council and what might be the determining factor for the Governing Board is the proposal that the closed campus be tried for one year. If disciplinary issues improve and the overall benefits outweigh the drawbacks, students can expect to dine in the Student Union for many years to come.
Theresa Warren serves on the Site Council and has a 16-year-old daughter at WHS. She said she isn’t sold on the idea of a closed campus but she probably doesn’t represent the majority of parents.
“My understanding from a lot of the parents I talked to is that a lot of people feel that a closed campus would be a good thing. A lot of people base that on the one incident that happened with the teenagers that died on Clear Creek Road,” she said. “I agree that was a terrible tragedy but I don’t agree that the whole system as it stands should be changed based on one incident.”
Warren said the Site Council did not overwhelming support the idea of a closed campus at first but decided that it might be worth consideration if it was done for one school year. At the end of the trail period, the district would look at the results and decide if it should be permanent.
However, the new high school campus was not designed to be closed. Under the current proposal, the main gate off Cherry and a side gate on Colorado would remain open. The side gate would be used for students who have classes in the Industrial Arts and Science Buildings. Watson said the gates would not be manned but could still be monitored.
Parents were made aware of the idea during February parent-teacher conferences, the school newsletter and had a chance to respond through a survey.
Only 87 surveys were returned, but of those 64-percent agreed a closed campus would be good for the students. The majority (71-percent) also said students would not get in as much trouble at lunch.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the school so far has been ensuring all the different parties are in agreement. Watson told the Board that the BIA dorm leadership and food service provider Chartwells are open to the idea and willing to adapt. The Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) also agreed to work its classes into a new schedule.
“The dorm is for it because they’ll know where their students are,” Watson said.
Scheduling is the other challenge. A new schedule could affect the junior high school since the two schools share teachers.
Watson said he knows there is a bit of a gamble when tinkering with schedules.
“We have a schedule that we know works,” he said. “We’re working on a new schedule that right now we don’t know if it’ll work. We should know in the next few weeks.”
The temporary schedule favors juniors and seniors. If seniors are on track to graduate, meaning they would need only five classes, their day could be over before 1 p.m. giving them plenty of time for after-school activities or jobs.
Lunches would take place in blocks with each grade eating with separate from the others.
Students are not thrilled about not being able to interact with the other grades.
Student Council Vice President-elect Megan Nagle said her classmates don’t like the idea of a closed campus.
“They feel like they’ll be closed in and not trusted,” she said. “A few (students) said there will be more fights and more disrespect to the adults because they’ll feel like their freedom is taken away.”
The 2005-06 Student Council President Monika LeGate said students are circulating petitions around school. But there are some students who see a positive side too.
“Students willing to work at it will do their best to make it a positive thing and hope for the best,” she said.
LeGate and Nagle said most students leave campus for lunch and that there are maybe 30 students who eat at the Student Union “on a good day.”
“I don’t think adults have thought through everything,” LeGate said. “When there are restrictions, people get sneaky.”
Watson said he’s talked with other school districts that have instituted a closed campus. He said those schools reported fewer problems during lunch. Another example closer to home is Winslow Junior High School.
Principal Jim MacLean said that when his school started a closed campus about four years ago there were complaints for the first year and scheduling were a nightmare.
“Now everyone’s adjusted and it’s proven to be a good decision,” he said.