Their element of surprise lost, students at Brookings-Harbor High School were debating Tuesday whether to go ahead with a walk-out this morning to protest closed-campus rules.

Meanwhile, school officials warned students in extra-curricular activities or leadership positions that they would be suspended from their positions if they participate in the walk-out.

Baseball, track, softball and golf all are under way and the dance team heads for state competition next week.

The walk-out plans were organized last week by Junior Class President Karissa Hayes and several friends.

Its worked before, said Hayes, recounting adults stories of earlier controversies over closed campus at BHHS.

Theres been a group of us, added junior Daniel Zia, reporting he has about 400 signatures on petitions. Weve had different people talking to whole classes. Everyone already knew.

But the walk-out plan caught some students by surprise, as well as Leadership Class instructor Kristi Kleespies, who said she knew nothing of the plans. Hayes said the walk-out idea was hatched in a class last week when Kleespies was called out of the room. It had not been discussed in the before-school Leadership Class.

Principal Floyd Strandberg said he had heard of the student plans late last week, and had been talking with students one-on-one about how best to handle the issue.

Several students in Tuesday mornings leadership class argued students should go to the school board with a proposal for changing the policy before trying a walk-out.

Half the seniors we talk to say no, said Hayes, who admitted she herself did not plan to leave in the walk-out.

This years senior class is the last class allowed to leave campus during lunch, under a school board policy adopted in July 1998.

You have to talk to the school board, said senior Tosca Braun told the Leadership Class Tuesday.

The Pilots discussion with the Leadership Class was prompted by a letter from Samantha Hyde arguing students should stage a walk-in at the board meeting next Monday night.

If we do this right, they will listen, Hyde wrote. We may not get what we want, but we will have done the right thing. If we just walk, we wont get anything but trouble.

Hyde was handing out her letter at the school Tuesday and submitted it to The Pilot (see Letters to the Editor page 4A).

School Board President Brian Larsson said students would be welcome to present their case to the board next Monday, and feels the board has always been very approachable.

The board has blown them off time and time again, Zia said. Theres no way we can get 200 people to go to a school board meeting, but we can get 200 people to walk out. Youve got to think about what you can get.

Both Hayes and Zia said they thought the student position should be open campus for all students.

Other students, mostly seniors, suggested going to the board with alternatives to the all-closed campus.

Im open to consider anything, Larsson said, but Im only one member of a five-member board.

What about a senior open campus? asked Kelli Carpenter, indicating school administrators are open to the idea.

If youre open to their ideas, theyre more open to your ideas, added Jessica Carrillo. Give them alternatives; make it like a privilege.

Strandberg said, The students suggest maybe seniors who are good students could leave campus as a privilege. Part of the issue is, what is a good student?

When some students suggested that they needed preparation and research on the topic before going to the board, Hayes was quick to respond.

They did prepare, she said of her mothers presentation to the board against the policy in August 1999. They looked up everything. They had students come in to talk to the board. The board did not listen.

Her mother, Fay Hays said, I just felt like I was completely ignored by the board, adding that board members stopped returning her phone calls.

She argues that being able to make decisions about how to spend their lunch hour helps prepare students for the choices they must make after high school.

It helps the school district supervise kids, said Larsson. I feel a large number of parents want their kids supervise. I know every parent doesnt feel that way.

Zia and other students argued the board is also concerned about attendance, since state revenue to the district is based on average daily attendance.

The closed-campus policy has been gradually taking effect over the past three years. The juniors planning the walk-out have never had the privilege.

The closed campus came about as a safety issue, Larsson said.

While the campus was last fully open before he came to Brookings, Strandberg said he was told problems included shoplifting, vandalism, auto accidents, student injuries off campus during school hours, drug use and freshman hazing.

Because of the campus design and lack of staff, both students and Strandberg agree that students can and do leave campus during school hours, often for illicit reasons.

There are some that leave, Strandberg said. We do our best. It would be impossible to have someone at every door.

Students questioned the safety of eating on the gym floor or an evacuation during lunch hours. Strandberg said the split lunch schedule (also controversial with students) means there are enough seats in the cafeteria for every student. They choose to eat in other areas, he said.

School Superintendent Dr. Paul Prevenas was out of town and not available for comment.