Glacier High School sophomores and juniors will be able to leave campus during lunch beginning Jan. 22. Before, only seniors were allowed off campus.
The school board approved the recommendation in an 8-1 vote, with trustee Anna Marie Bailey opposing, on Tuesday.
A lunch period is approximately 40 minutes, which raised questions by some trustees if that was enough time for students to leave and return to campus on time.
“Open campus,” is not limited to leaving school grounds, but also the school parking lot for students who want to sit in their vehicles during the lunch period.
The policy change falls in line with Flathead High School, which has included sophomores, juniors and seniors in its open campus policy for decades.
The request came from the Glacier student council. Student council members Morgan Baker, Kavi Fix, Joselyn Jolly, Kali Brubaker and Simon Hill presented the rationale, surveys and anecdotes behind the proposal to trustees in December.
One of the driving forces for making the proposal now is that commercial development around the school provides dozens of restaurant/grocery options nearby, as opposed to when the school opened in 2007, when there were only a couple of choices besides going home, Glacier Principal Micah Hill reiterated at Tuesday’s meeting.
Student council members counted 23 “eating establishments” within a five-minute drive of the high school campus. In addition, students noted long school-lunch lines with up to 20-minute waits. During the presentation, the group also talked about issues with seating and serving capacity and that some students not eligible to participate in the open campus policy leave despite the rules, or have parents excuse them.
Student presenters backed the rationale with survey results from 259 parent responses, 301 student responses and 71 staff responses.
Student responses showed overwhelming support to extend the off-campus privilege to sophomores and juniors by 95.3 percent. The staff responses also showed broad support.
Of the parent responses, 53.7 percent were “yes” votes to open-campus privileges to sophomores and juniors; 31.3 percent were “no” and 15.1 percent were “undecided.” One of the questions also posed to parents was whether or not they lived close enough to the school that their student could go home for lunch and make it back to class in time. Of the responses, 55.2 percent replied “no” and 44.8 percent, “yes.”
The current open-campus policy also accounts for disciplinary actions if a student is late to class or if litter becomes an issue.
The school’s tardiness policy will remain in effect, according to Hill. Students are considered tardy if they are not in class by the time the bell rings and up to five minutes after, according to the student and parent handbook. After a student is tardy once, each successive tardy results in a lunch detention.
Hill told trustees he had also discussed the potential impact to the food-service department and concluded that it would be minimal, but is something that will be tracked.
There are about 625 sophomores and juniors currently attending Glacier.
Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.