Policy asks parents to give permission for their student to leave the campus. But final decisions have yet to be made.
By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Valley High School campus open lunch policy discussion continues but in the meantime there are some papers that the district would like parents to sign, or not, depending on their preference.
All CVHS parents should have by now received a letter from the school explaining the campus open lunch policy and requesting parents to sign a form if they choose to give their child permission to leave the campus for lunch. The forms are due Jan. 30, random monitoring will begin in March.
The letter is a result of several months of exploration by the district into the possibility of closing the school’s campus for lunch.
At the Jan. 17 GUSD school board meeting, Deputy Superintendent Dr. John Garcia said that because of his investigation into the possibility, it was discovered the school had been going against district policy in regard to whom can leave the campus.
“The biggest discovery we had [during this inquiry] was finding that CVHS was not following current board policy,” Garcia said.
The issue is on the agenda of the next GUSD school board meeting on Feb. 7 at 4 p.m.
At some point – no one is certain exactly when – the school administration stopped asking for parent permission slips allowing students to leave campus. The policy was reversed, whereby parents needed to sign a paper when they did not want their student to leave.
A letter was mailed out on Friday to all CVHS families. With the letter, the philosophy of off campus lunch changes.
“It is a privilege to leave campus, not a right,” Garcia said.
The letter will also bring the decision making process back to the parent. Those that return the letter with the parent’s signature will receive a sticker that will be placed on their ASB [Associated Student Body] identification card. Students will then be monitored, randomly, as they go off campus.
“Right now we weren’t following board policy,” said Principal Michele Doll. “We needed to take a step, quickly, to bring us [into compliance].”
The letter is similar to the Off Campus Lunch Permit from La Cañada High School. Their letter reads, “La Cañada is a closed campus. No student is allowed to leave the grounds without permission.” Students from grades nine to 12 are allowed to leave if the parent or guardian requests permission in writing. The parents are asked to sign a form, and their child can leave for lunch.
“We have had a ton turned in already,” Doll said.
“It felt like we finally had accomplished something,” said CVHS freshman Taylor Middleton.
Many CVHS students have become activists since the word of the possible closure of the campus for lunch. Middleton had attended a meeting with Garcia and over 100 students at the youth center, the Fire House. Garcia was invited by a group of students to speak on the issue.
“We had listened to his presentation at the CV Town Council,” said CVHS senior Molly Shelton. “Afterwards we invited him to come speak to students at the Fire House and he accepted.”
Shelton said she wrote a “start a movement” paragraph and put it on her status on Facebook.
“I asked everyone to copy and repost it. So everyone saw that one paragraph and then we just spammed the date and time,” Shelton said.
“The word around school was they were going to close our campus and weren’t listening to us,” Middleton said.
Students came to the Fire House meeting prepared.
“We had calculus students sitting next to ASB (Associated Student Body),” Shelton said. “They came in with color coded Google maps. [Student] Joy McCreary found a law that dealt with liability in a different way than what the district was saying.”
Shelton and Middleton said they appreciated Garcia meeting with the students.
“When I first came in, I was thinking he was the bad guy but then he was open to what were saying,” Middleton added.
Middleton had questioned the permission letter policy during the Fire House meeting. She added she was glad the district looked into it.
PTSA President Liz Arnold said she was happy to see the letters go out but wanted the community to know that the possibility of a closed campus and all that entails may still be a reality.
The PTSA has taken a stand on the issue and has voted in favor of keeping the campus open lunch policy.
“What I hope is that our board members will hear what [the community] has been expressing and what our students have been expressing,” Arnold said. “We are asking to maintain an open lunch policy.”
CVHS is the only school in the Glendale Unified School District that allows students to leave campus for lunch. The campus has been open for several years and throughout all those years there were rumors of closing the campus for lunch.
The move from rumor to district discussion began in mid-September 2011. Deputy Superintendent Dr. John Garcia presented statistics at the GUSD school board meeting. The stats indicated that unexcused absences after lunch were high, and there were arrests and car accidents during the lunch period.
Middleton hopes the letter sent to parents is a positive sign that the district is rethinking the issue.
“I think they want us to be more responsible,” she said. “The district is looking to us for answers and if we don’t give them the right answers then they will close it.”
She and Shelton have started contacting students and clubs to help clean the neighborhood of trash left by students at lunch as an act of good faith and responsibility.
Shelton is glad that the district listened to the students’ opinion but is still cautious about the process.
“My concern is they are implementing this policy, the letter, by sending it out during finals week,” she said. “We only had one day with second period and that was Monday.”
This past week is final testing for classes at CVHS. The school has minimum day release. Second period is considered student’s homeroom, where information is dispensed.
“I know I am so busy studying and so are other [students], so it would be easy to forget,” she said. “I hope we get more information about the process.”
Fence Them In?
One of the issues that has been discussed at several of the meetings concerning the open lunch policy at Crescenta Valley High School has been a fence, or series of fences, the district will build to prepare the campus for lunch closure.
“It is more how do we keep people [that should not be on the campus] off the campus,” Garcia said.
After taking tours of the school, the district found that there is one area that is critical.
“Down by the track gate,” Garcia said.
The costs of that fencing is an estimated $21,000. There are two of other areas that may need fencing if the campus is closed at lunch: near the music room and parking lot on Ramsdell Avenue that will cost about $28,000 and the staff parking lot, also on Ramsdell Avenue, that may cost $41,000. The funding could possibly come from Measure S bond that was recently passed.