Seniors at Brookings-Harbor High School next fall will be allowed to leave campus at lunch with no strings attached, the school board voted 4-1 on Monday.
Boardmember Mary Anderson cast the dissenting vote, citing her concern for the students safety.
The decision reverses a district policy that called for closing the campus at lunch for all students next fall.
Its sweet. I feel like we accomplished something, said Janna Tavel, a junior who, in recent months, had helped organize students in her grade to protest the districts closed campus policy.
Junior Inger Appanaitis was happy with the boards decision. I still would have liked to see juniors allowed to leave school at lunch, but Im happy with the outcome.
More than 100 people, mostly students and their parents, packed the school board meeting to see whether the board was going to stick to its closed campus policy.
At the boards February meeting, a group of 60-plus students and parents addressed the board, asking them to allow at least juniors and seniors to leave campus at lunch.
Their campaign followed on the heels of several aborted attempts at student walkouts and a lunchtime sit-in.
The school board agreed then to review the closed campus policy and asked high school Principal Floyd Strandberg to present a report showing both the pros and cons of allowing students to leave at lunch.
Strandberg went further than that. At Mondays meeting, he and three student representatives ninth grader Travis Alcorn, 10th grader Inger Appanaitis, and 11th grader Lisa Nowlin presented the school board with five options.
The options along with pros and cons for each, which Floyd developed with the three students, included:
Closing the campus to all students.
Allowing only seniors to leave, but on a limited basis.
Allowing seniors to leave with no restrictions, which Strandberg called Senior Privilege.
Allowing juniors and seniors to leave at lunch with restrictions.
Allowing juniors and seniors to leave with no restrictions.
Possible restrictions in some of the above options included requiring students to maintain a certain acceptable level of grades and attendance.
In fact, Boardmember Tom Davis asked Strandberg if it was possible to let only those students leave who maintain grades high enough to graduate on time and have acceptable attendance.
Strandberg said such restrictions may work, but added, The more restrictions, the more difficult to enforce, and the more personnel I would have to hire to enforce it.
When Davis asked Strandberg which options he personally liked, the principal said options three, which allowed seniors to leave with no restrictions.
Seniors are at a point in their life when they are or should be mature, Strandberg said. Theyve been driving for two years and most are or will be 18.
He added, This years senior class has demonstrated to me they can be safe.
Strandberg said he understood the board decision two years ago to phase in the closed campus policy. The original intent, he said, was for student safety, and that was spurred in part by several student-related accidents that occurred on and off campus.
But since then, he said, student-related accidents around the school and in town are down, drug-related problems at lunch have decreased, and very few students return to school late after lunch.
I think students in 9, 10 and eleventh grade realize that leaving campus at lunch is a privilege for seniors, and they accept it as a privilege, Strandberg said. He added that individual seniors who dont adhere to the policy will be disciplined.
In making her decision, boardmember Mary Van Hoesen said, Im leaning toward unrestricted for seniors only. It would be too difficult to follow through if you have restrictions.
Boardmembers Jeanne Sever, Brian Larrson and Davis seem to agree.
Anderson, however, voted no, telling the audience, I appreciate the students efforts, but you still havent changed my mind. I want a closed campus period.
Anderson later told The Pilot she voted no out of concern for the students safety.
For 33 minutes, they dont need to be running around town here and there, she said.
Nobody brought up the Sarah Timeus accident, she added, referring to a student who was severely injured in an auto accident several years ago while she was cutting class with other students.
It didnt happen at lunch time, but it happened during school hour, she said.
Later, after most of the audience had left the board meeting, Strandberg told board members their decision to revise the policy showed the students the board was willing to consider the students needs and listen to good arguments.
In case the board still had reservations, Strandberg reminded them, Its only one class, so we always have the option to close it later.