When kitchens open, campuses may close

School Board to decide on whether to let students leave during lunch once new school is built

Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2007

When Juneau-Douglas High School junior Peter Nave becomes a senior next year, he hopes he'll have the freedom that students have now.

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He may be disappointed.

When Thunder Mountain High School is completed, its new kitchen facilities will be able to make enough lunches for both schools to serve their students, a a development that could result in closed campuses.

The closed-campus decision will be up to the Juneau School Board, which is expected to work it out in coming months.

Nave and other students don't like the idea of being stuck at school all day.

"I think students have come to enjoy their hour of freedom," he said.

JDHS currently allows students to leave for lunch and other times when they don't have classes. Many students eat at hangouts near the school.

"We don't have the capacity to serve the total student population," said Dale Staley, JDHS assistant principal.

Staley said he thinks a closed campus would be a good idea. It would make truancy and security easier to control.

Nave disagreed, saying it would lead to tension and bored students.

"It's a break from class, and open campus is a break from school." he said. "It definitely takes off the pressure."

Superintendent Peggy Cowan wouldn't comment on whether JDHS and TMHS should have open or closed campuses. She said the decision was ultimately up to the public and the School Board. The district is conducting public advisory committee meetings to decide future school policies.

School Board member Andi Story said she supports having closed campuses at both high schools.

"We know truancy goes way up after lunch," she said.

Another benefit to new kitchen facilities will be revamping the district's free and reduced lunch program. The district buys bagged lunches from ESS Support Services Worldwide.

The district pays $3.28 per lunch for a total of $428,000 for the entire school year.

Since it's obvious which students get the free or reduced lunches, the current system opens less-fortunate students to teasing or worse. A program allowing all student to get the same type of meals would reduce the stigma of being poor, administrators say.

• Will Morris may be contacted at william.morris@juneauempire.com

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