The Issues: Open Campus at the High School

Candidates running in the Nov. 8 Benicia Unified School District board election answer questions posed by Benicia Patch with input from readers.

Every day at lunch there’s an exodus of students, some in cars headed to fast food restaurants around town (some say to other cities) others walking to nearby parks.  There are health and safety issues involving possible drug use and speeding cars as students try to beat the bell.

Today’s question (from a reader): Should Benicia High School go to a closed campus at lunch?

With the great work done by staff, and parents as well as the work of the Great Neighbor’s committees, we have a great cafeteria. A logical future step is to review the feasibility of closing the campus at lunch. I think we are one of the only open campuses in Solano County.

BUSD has the only high school in 40 miles that have an open campus. I think we have been very lucky to have not had any serious problems. I have seen BHS students walking in In & Out in Pinole at 12:30 and wondered how they are able to order their food and make it back safely to school by the bell. I know they also go to In & Out in Fairfield and Sonic in American Canyon, just to name a few. BUSD has the responsibility of keeping all students safe during school hours. I know the high school has been giving lunch detention for being late to class after lunch but have been told not all teachers are enforcing that. I know closing the campus has the support of the Benicia Police and many neighbors around the high school. I think we need to look into providing more lunchtime on campus activities (class competitions, music, special events, etc.). Continue improving the cafeteria / food, and then maybe students won’t want to leave.

The new food service at the High School is very successful.  It offers a variety of healthy choices and a fun environment in the student center that enables different socializing opportunities that are well received by both students and staff.  With this development, closing the high school campus during lunch seems more than workable.  The concern was that all students could not be served in a timely schedule, but that problem, with current choices available, seems diminished.

A closed campus would also contribute to less truancy and has a potential for developing student focus on classes and school goals

I would like to see a compromise regarding this issue.  Keeping students on campus for lunch would encourage a positive school community and decrease tardiness for fifth period, but it is clear that Benicia High School facilities cannot accommodate each student during lunchtime.  By limiting whether students can go off campus by grade level and/or day of the week, we mitigate the issues posed by an open campus while keeping in mind the limitations of our facilities.


Cheryl Ford October 11, 2011 at 08:30 PM
I think closing the campus is a great idea. I agree that the kids who drive are riding around other kids which is againist the law for new drivers. Most new drivers are excited to drive but this creates dangers for all invovled. Accidents by student drivers occur weekly in the BHS parking lot or near by. Most of the fender benders are not even reported. Do whatever needs to be done to keep the kids safe; add two lunch periods and close the campus.
Judith Tata October 11, 2011 at 10:04 PM
One of the stipulations in obtaining the money for the cafeteria revamp was that it was going to a green cause - meaning by providing decent food in a nice setting, we would get the kids and their cars off the roads. As Karen La Riviere noted, some of the schools that we visited prior to embarking on this improvement venture, had both smaller and less elaborate grounds. In comparison, there seem to be no obvious reason why BHS can not be on par at least with the Vallejo schools. As for the set-up at BMS, if a la cart items were removed - or severely limited - and mainly full lunches were served at all stations, maybe some of the lines would move faster...
Donna Covey October 12, 2011 at 12:21 AM
Karen, I can't speak to how things are being handled now - but at the time our school had 2,000 students and we were on a block schedule.
Elaine October 12, 2011 at 01:09 AM
Re: BMS... I'm for doing what ever it takes to improve the long lunch lines at BMS. Kids should not have to spend their entire lunch period waiting in a line to get their food.
Gary Wing October 12, 2011 at 03:46 PM
Elaine, My understanding since Nutrikids pay system started at BMS, that the student at the end of the line is at the counter in 5 to 7 minutes. Lunch is around 40 minutes.


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