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Our Editorial: Closed lunch becomes real possibility

May 11, 2016

In order to make sure the district is as safe as possible, the School Board hired a security company to examine the schools and identify any potential security issues. After concluding its investigation, the company pointed out that an open campus lunch is an important security breach, leading the Board to debate closing the campus.


 

Pro

Losing open campus privileges may prove an inconvenience, but it could also be key for keeping students safe.

Just eight months ago, an armed robbery in Detroit turned into a high-speed chase that ended in our parking lot. From there, the suspects abandoned their car and fled on foot.

Luckily, school was not in session that day, but it did start five weeks later. Imagine returning to class from lunch and witnessing three armed men jump from their car in front of you.

While it is true that armed robbery suspects don’t end up in our parking lot every day, it happened once, and it can again. Even though a closed campus won’t prevent that, it will certainly allow everyone to be safer if such an event suddenly occurred.

A closed campus would do more than help keep students out of harm’s way in lockdown situations. It will also stop the frenzied rushes in the parking lot during lunch.

With only 36 minutes, students often rush on their way out and when coming back to get to their classes on time. This harried pace can lead to reckless driving and accidents. However, if students have to stay at school for lunch, this will no longer be a problem.

Ending open campus privileges will also indirectly benefit food sales at the school. If students are not able to leave campus to buy food, they will either bring their own or buy what the school provides. This will improve support for the school store, Student Union and any groups hosting bakes sales. Superintendent Gary Niehaus even proposed having cooking or baking classes sell food during lunch as an additional source of food options for students.

Closing the campus should also decrease the number of fourth and fifth hour tardies. According to Assistant Principal Tom Beach, behind first hour, students are late to their fourth and fifth hours the most.

Without considering these potential benefits, one may only see the drawbacks to a closed campus. One of the main concerns critics have about closing the campus is that there is not enough room to house over 1,300 students in the cafeteria.

However, by the end of the 2014-15 school year, there had been five closed lunches in response to bomb threats. Therefore, size should not be a concern.

If space is really a concern, there are several solutions to such a problem, including making more room or adding additional lunch periods. Since the Board’s current plan will take four years before the entire school has a closed campus, there is plenty of time to take care of any housing issues.

Although sticking with an open-campus system would be the easier choice, it may not be the right one in the end. The question at hand is not one of simplicity, but one of security. And that security simply cannot be guaranteed for students under the current policy.

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    Con

    Open-campus lunch has been a North institution for years, and while it has the potential to be a safety flaw, there have not been any incidents leading to a schoolwide situation that endangered students.

    Currently, there is not enough room to accommodate every student during both lunch periods in the cafeteria. While it is possible to add a third or even fourth lunch in order to squeeze everyone in, this would dramatically alter how schedules work.

    Another potential option is to build a new addition to the cafeteria, which would allow sufficient room for students during only two lunch periods. However, while this seems like a good idea, it may not be the best option. Building a new addition to the school would be costly.

    It would also cost more to have a third or fourth lunch period as cafeteria employees and security guards would need to spend more time running the cafeteria and would be required to be paid more.  

    The cost of building the new addition and the increased wages for workers would not be the only costs to see a drastic increase. More food would need to be bought in order to feed all the students. And while North could raise the money over time, is this what we should be spending money on when open campus lunches have not posed a direct threat to students?

    Furthermore, small businesses and restaurants near North would suffer from closed campus. A big part of their profits come from students going to their restaurants every day for lunch. Without open campus lunches, many in the area would suffer.

    Local merchants wouldn’t be the only ones to suffer. Our school community would, too.

    Even though the new policy of closed lunches would not apply to current students who already attend North, incoming students would never get the option to enjoy the same opportunities as everyone else.

    This would not only create an invisible divide between older and younger students, it would also create tensions and jealousy between the two. Incoming students look forward to open-campus lunch and can’t wait to experience the freedom themselves.

    By taking this privilege away from them, it would not only be a crushing disappointment, but with all the other grades being allowed to leave campus, it would create a definite division among the classes.

    With closed-campus lunches, North would also lose an important and fun tradition: Tuesdays Mean Pizza.

    Because our cafeteria food is contracted with Sodexo, North is limited in its ability to sell any other brands of food. This means that closed campus would effectively end the TMP tradition.

    Furthermore, having open campus lunch doesn’t make any more tardies than having late start Mondays. It is first hour, not fourth or fifth, that has the most tardies.

    While having closed campus is an option that could make North safer, it would also affect both the school community and surrounding businesses. The other new policies such as message alerts would be able to eliminate most threats that come with having an open lunch. This would make having closed campus a costly precaution that may not be necessary for student safety.

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