At Orient-Macksburg Community School board meeting Monday, a group of O-M high school seniors presented a new policy allowing all eligible seniors open campus during study halls and lunch.
“We, as a class, decided that we would like open lunch and open study halls,” said senior Gabby Jenkins, “because ... some people have, like, four study halls at the end of the day and it’s kind of boring sitting in class for three hours at a time with nothing to do.”
The presentation was the result of a government class project about civic action and making a difference in the community.
“It got started in class but I wanted it to be a grass roots kind of campaign that they did,” said Chris Olesen, O-M social studies teacher. “I kind of provided them the framework as an assignment for government to teach them civic action ... and then it was mostly on them. I asked them what they would most like to change in the school ... and it sounded like open campus.”
The basic school day in O-M consists of block classes in Creston in the morning and a four period afternoon in Orient, totalling seven classes and one study hall. However, some students take classes at Southwestern Community College (SWCC), as well.
“They were pretty passionate, some of them, about their reasoning,” said Teresa Thompson, O-M principal. “I think it’s been good for them to work in groups to come up with ideas.”
Requirements and restrictions
The students came up with requirements that the students must meet in order to be eligible for open campus. The requirements include a set grade-point average (GPA) based on the previous semester, parental consent, a limited number of tardies and future seniors must apply for the policy.
“We think the seniors after us should have to request the same policy like we did to all of you (O-M school board) and have a presentation,” said Jenkins, “because we put a lot of hard work into this and took a lot of class time and our own time to make this presentation and we just don’t want to hand it to someone else.”
The students also came up with restrictions for violating the policy requirements. They are:
•After three tardies, students will get one week of no open campus. Each additional tardy counts as an extra week.
•Students will receive a permanent revocation of the open campus policy if they participate in illegal acts outside of school.
•If students who don’t meet the requirements leave, they will receive a punishment from the principal and superintendent as they see fit.
“They did a very nice job presenting this,” said O-M Superintendent Doug Latham. “Maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing to try it for a semester just to see how it would work. I could see advatantages ... it does teach them responsibility.”
The students gave several reasons in their PowerPoint presentation as to why having open campus would be beneficial to them and future students:
•The policy teaches time and money management skills.
•The students learn what it means to be responsible and respectful.
•The students must maintain their grades, as the average GPA in the senior class is currently 3.1.
•Students would eat at local restaurants in Orient and therefore support local businesses.
“I really like the GPA (requirement) of 3.0,” said Latham. “It’s going to mean that you’re going to take the initiative and you’re going to have to study.”
One area of concern was where would the students go. Jenkins said students would go eat at local businesses, like Kramer’s Cafe or the Orient Express, home, friends’ homes, run errands or to SWCC for extra study time and help.
Jenkins said the requirement for parental consent was important in case someone was hurt while off campus, so that the school was not liable. She also said there would be a sign-out sheet for all students to sign when leaving and returning, so the school would know where the students were going.
There were, however, some doubts toward the new policy.
“My two biggest negatives would be that if the seniors then were not eating here we would lose those student counts off of our federal meal registry, and the money that comes into our lunch program through the federal government,” Latham said. “My other negative would be is if they tried to make it down to Creston and back from McDonald’s, and they get picked up speeding or something like that, or, worse yet, get involved in an accident because they were just trying to hurry too fast.”
The students spoke with Bill Messerole, Creston High School principal, about the policy in Creston. Messerole said because the high school has block scheduling and requires students to have a full schedule it isn’t an issue. He did say, however, that as Centerville High School principal, the open campus policy required all high school seniors to have zero truancies the previous semester and to be on schedule to graduate to qualify for open campus. That meant that the students did not have to be in school if they were assigned a study hall.
The students have already begun fine-tuning the policy for the next board meeting. The school board members decided to put the policy on the agenda for February’s meeting.
In other news
•The school board approved Stacey Cass as special education associate and approved the hire of a third driver’s education instructor.
•The school board discussed the building of a greenhouse for FFA and agriculture class. It will be on the agenda in February.
•There will be interviews in February for the position of superintendent. Doug Latham, the current O-M superintendent, will be retiring at the end of the school year.
“They had some good reasoning behind some of their answers. I think it’s been a good project for them ... to get their voices heard and and have logical reasoning behind it.”