Plans for a “closed campus” for Berkeley High freshman have been postponed indefinitely, Berkeley schools Superintendent Michele Lawrence said Friday.
Or, better put, an absence of plans for a “closed campus” has led the new superintendent to put the idea on hold.
“We weren’t ready to my satisfaction to manage holding all those kids at lunch hour,” Lawrence said. “There were just too many loose end for us to move forward and implement this.”
This spring, Berkeley High Principal Frank Lynch proposed closing the campus for freshman this year and sophomores in 2002, a move he hoped would reduce truancy at the school by eliminating the temptation for young students to linger in downtown Berkeley after their lunch period.
Most school board members lent their support to the plan, at least in theory. But there were doubts at the time that the plan could really be implemented this fall, as Lynch had proposed.
School board members wanted to know how the plan would be enforced. Would high school staff man each school exit at the beginning of lunch hour to make sure no freshman slipped out? How would they been able to spot a few dozen freshmen in a mass exodus of some 3,000 students?
Lynch suggested at the time that all students could be required to carry identification cards. But this raised questions for some about how long it would take to check all the students I.D. cards as they left campus. Some pointed out that a 45-minute lunch period is already scarcely enough time for students to line up at a downtown restaurant, gobble down their food and walk back to their fifth period class.
Perhaps even more worrisome to school board members was the question of how 800 freshman would be fed if they remained on campus. Currently, the schools only lunch facility is a take out buffet in the entrance hall of the Community Theater building. Even if that facility could be expanded to handle 800 students a day, which many doubt, there is no seating available for indoor dining.
If asked to stay on campus during lunch period, most freshmen would probably hang out in the school’s courtyard. Many fear that 800 students hanging out with no place to go could present a volatile situation at Berkeley High, requiring a great deal of supervision from High School staff.
Lunch period is when students traditionally let off steam, they say, something that would be difficult to do in a cramped courtyard with few places to sit.
Finally, Lawrence pointed out Friday, there needs to be a plan for what to do with the kids on rainy days.
Lawrence said she supports the idea of a closed campus for freshman, not merely because it cuts back on truancy, but also because it builds a greater sense of community when all the members of a class eat in the same place day after day. Teachers could even used the lunch period for some school enrichment activities under such a model, she added.
But, given the constraints of Berkeley High’s small campus, it will take time to come up with a viable plan, Lawrence said.
Lynch said in an interview early last week that demolition of the B building would soon be underway. That should free up more space for students to hang out during the lunch hour, he said, making a closed campus plan more practical for the second semester.