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Open Campus at OPRF To Change Next Year

But questions remain about who's in "good standing"

A change in policy won’t end the discussion about who's able to leave the campus for lunch.

In a narrow 4 to 3 vote on Thursday, the District 200 school board decided to allow juniors and seniors to go off-campus next year if they are in “good standing” and have parents’ permission.

Ralph Lee, newcomer John Phelan, Terry Finnegan and Board President Dietra Millard approved the policy change. Board members Amy McCormick, Jacques Conway and Sharon Patchak-Layman voted against it.

Lauren Webb and Nyshie Howery, two OPRF sophomores who attended the meeting, said the board’s decision would cause friction among students.

“I don’t want the fighting,” Webb said. “We’ll be all together at the same time. That won’t work out.”

Changes, Fast

The policy will take effect beginning with the 2011-2012 school year, leaving officials only a few months to arrange for a whole slew of changes. Chief among them is defining what “good standing means” for juniors and seniors.

Principal Nate Rouse said there will be some community discussion on narrowing down the label.

For him, all juniors and seniors will come in “with a clean slate,” at the beginning of the year in that they will all be able to leave campus for lunch.

After the first four weeks of the next school year, officials will look at disciplinary issues, tardies and unexcused absences – not grades – to see if they still can leave campus for lunch, Rouse said.

Rouse will talk about the change in policy with the student body on Tuesday.

“I want them to hear the message from me,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”

'A Step in the Right Direction'

While community discussions about closing the campus originally centered on drugs and alcohol abuse, talks eventually morphed into talks about security and safety.

That led to a pledge from school officials to ramp up the monitoring of hallways as well as school exits and entryways, and enforcement of the school’s ID policy, which requires students to wear identification.

In addition, the school board passed a motion at Thursdays meeting directing school administrators “to create a lunchtime environment that supports the educational goals of this high school and promotes social, emotional and physical health of students.”

Only Millard voted against the motion, saying it was “micromanaging…. It should have been a broader discussion than just on lunch,” she said.

Still, alterations to the longstanding school lunch policy pleased even those originally in favor of closing the campus outright.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Kristine Raino-Ogden, the chairperson of a group in favor of closing the campus to combat teen drug and alcohol abuse.

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