Administration discusses off-campus lunch possibility
By Catherine Brown, Photo Editor
Countless high schools across the country have varying degrees of freedom regarding open campus lunches. For VHS students, the current policy prevents them from leaving school property, a rule that has stood for a number of years. Still, for some, the old policy is less of a faded memory and more of an ambitious dream.
Recently, students have been eager for the school to change the off-campus rule. However, high school principal Danny Rock believes doing so is too much of a safety hazard.
“I support [a closed campus lunch] for a couple different reasons,” Rock said. “One is [that] we don’t have any close food options so if we open up the campus then what we’re really doing is setting all the drivers free to drive around town and drive back, and I think that’s a big set up for students getting into accidents, driving recklessly to get somewhere fast.”
This concern is not unfounded. In 2001, a group of high school students were involved in a car accident on Monument Road during school hours, causing the death of a freshman student.
“Even just an accident is scary, but the risks you take of [off campus lunch] involves an injury, or let alone fatality, is the big concern there,” vice principal Andrew Guss said.
One fear is that off-campus lunch gives students the freedom of leaving and not returning.
“I’m concerned about safety and creating an incentive for misbehavior,” Rock said. “I don’t see any practical benefit.”
If students were capable of leaving during lunch, staff would not be able to keep track of which students were leaving or returning.
“It creates a significant supervision burden,” Rock said. “We just don’t have the resources.”
In the past, the possibility of only upperclassmen having the privilege of off-campus lunch has been raised to administration.
“If we say juniors and seniors only can go off-campus, then it means we have to monitor and hold accountable freshmen and sophomores leaving,” Rock said “As soon as I don’t see a crush of students grabbing for plates and forks and trays at the lunch line every day, then I could more easily imagine not having students racing to get off campus from our one exit lane.”
Although the rule may not change in the near future, there are some possibilities that could sway the administration.
“One thing that would help is if we had more clearly established parking lots for different grade levels like if there was a senior parking lot where seniors could come and go then that would help solve some of the supervision concerns,” said Rock.
Along with Rock, Guss believes VHS should stay a closed campus.
“Safety is my biggest concern and safety is probably the biggest justification to why it doesn’t exist already,” said Guss.
Instead of having an off-campus lunch, the school could potentially allow students to deliver food to the building, ensuring no students would be endangered.
“[Food delivery is] a reasonable thing that students could bring forth as a proposal,” Guss said. “We could talk about why this works and why it doesn’t work, [and] if it wouldn’t work we can figure out a solution or answer to it, so I say it’s worthy of contemplating or investigating a solution.”
ASB co-president senior Alexia Taisey hopes for an open campus but doesn’t see the clear possibility.
“That was one thing that I really wanted to try to get done, but after talking to Mr. Rock about it, I realized why the staff [doesn’t] think that that’s such a good idea,” Taisey said. “It’s better to just eliminate the risk of [an accident] ever happening again. I would rather eat school lunch than risk that chance.”
Taisey sees the possibility of off-campus lunches in the future, if not this year. She encourages interested students to continue to discuss the possibility with her.
“I would talk to Mr. Rock about it and see if there’s any way we could get parent permission forms and things where it’s no longer the schools responsibility if you leave, but then again that’s a lot, a lot of effort and I don’t think that that would be able to be placed in just one year” Taisey said. “If people do really find it a big deal for them, I would love for them to come and talk to me about it.”
Rock is doubtful that the school will ever reopen the campus during lunch.
“I don’t see any tremendous benefit for students to open up the camps apart from the feeling of freedom or of responsibility,” said Rock.