Cal planning a closed campus

Cal planning a closed campus

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Heather Wong, News Editor

Cal High administrators are considering a closed campus policy that would prohibit all seniors from going off campus for lunch as soon as next year.

Assistant principal Sarah Wondolowski said the main reason the school wants to close the campus is safety. She said three car accidents occurred last year during lunch because seniors were speeding to get back to class.

“We are concerned,” said Wondolowski.  “With only a 35-minute lunch break and no nearby places to eat, there is simply not enough time.”

Senior Jeff Armanini, who often goes off-campus for lunch, said he is forced to eat his lunch while he is driving back to campus or after he gets back to school.  He believes some additional time for lunch would help this situation dramatically.

“I do get back to school before the bell rings,” said Armanini.  “But ideally, 20 extra minutes for lunch would be best.  It’s especially hard getting out to the parking lot when you are coming down from the third floor.”

Principal Mark Corti said a closed campus policy was re-examined as a way to enhance school safety after the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, in which an intruder came on campus and killed 20 young students and six adults.

If a closed campus policy is implemented, there would be more manpower to supervise students who are eating at school, rather than having security and staff on the outskirts of campus, checking the ID cards of seniors leaving for lunch.

Juniors and underclassmen, however, disagree with this policy because they look forward to leaving campus as seniors.

“I feel that the privilege of leaving campus is a rite of passage that should not be taken away,” said junior Morgan Yee.

Sophomore Paige Zilinskas agrees.

“That seriously sucks,” said Zilinskas.  “It’s not fair because everyone before us got to do it. I don’t know how they’ll keep us from leaving campus anyway.”

With the current open campus policy, seniors leave campus through the entrance of the school parking lot.  Students must show their ID cards to the security or staff member in charge to prove they are seniors before being permitted to leave campus.

With a closed campus, any student with a valid reason to leave school would have to sign out in the office, Corti said.

Corti recently shared the idea of a closed campus with the PTSA and some staff members. After the first quarter, he plans to open discussion with leadership students about closing campus.

Although he supports a closed campus, Corti said he is willing to consider all options.  The process of exploring the change in policy will include getting more opinions, counting the number of cars leaving per day to see how many seniors are actually leaving, and collecting other useful statistics.

“Good ideas could be out there,” said Corti. “If someone has an idea for a compromise, we will consider it. Their ideas could work well.”

Junior Thomas Landucci suggested a compromise that would allow students to leave school only three days a week.

For more than 15 years, Cal has had an open campus policy. If it closes, Cal will join Dougherty Valley and Monte Vista among the other schools in the San Ramon Valley Unified School District that are closed.

The only other school in the district with an open campus is San Ramon Valley. But Corti said the school is more suited for an open campus policy because it is within walking distance of different restaurants, so student safety on the road is not so much of a concern as it is at Cal.

History teacher Gary Lambert attended an open campus high school like Cal High that was not located near many restaurants.

“Transportation time takes too long,” said Lambert.  “Also, a minority of students probably get high during lunch. People in my day smoked off-campus during lunch.”

While Lambert supports the idea of a closed campus, some seniors feel sympathy for the underclassmen that will be affected.

“That really sucks,” said senior Taylor Tsuji, who will not be affected by the potential change. “I would be so mad because everyone would have to eat cafeteria food.”

Closing the campus would possibly force up to a few hundred additional students to eat lunch at school.  Since there is already a limited amount of space on campus where students may eat, especially during the winter when it reains, this brings up another issue. Administrators are concerned the campus might become overcrowded during lunch.

“I will be upset if they change the policy,” said junior Josh Burris.  “Most seniors will be 18 anyway, so I think we should be allowed.”

Administrators said a decision regarding open campus will be decided by next June.

What our followers are saying on Twitter:

Senior Rachel Baner: “Stupid.”

2012 Cal High graduate John Sexton: “Puh-lease. I got to Popeye’s in Dublin and back with time to spare without speeding.”

Add to the conversation on Twitter @_TheCalifornian.