By Jason KUROSU
For years, Crescenta Valley High School has been the only high school in the district with an open lunch policy, a distinction which may not exist come January when the district school board will decide whether or not to move towards closing the campus at lunch. Increases in off-campus drug arrests and car accidents involving students as well as truancies have led to the consideration of closing the campus for lunch.
District administrators have been compiling data and input from students, parents and other members of the community to aid in reaching a final decision.
Deputy Superintendent John Garcia hosted a meeting at Crescenta Valley High School Thursday night in order to let the community know where the district stood and to hear the public’s thoughts.
“Over the course of the last five years, there was a significant spike in expulsions out of Crescenta Valley High School,” said Garcia at the start of the meeting. “The discussion [over whether or not to close the campus] was generated by the board [of education] looking at the expulsions and it appeared that a preponderance of those expulsions were coming during lunchtime.”
Garcia was then tasked to compile data covering a wide range of areas including expulsion rates, rates of truancies and absences, incidents occurring during lunchtime and comparisons of these statistics with other schools in the district, such as Glendale and Hoover high schools, both of which have had closed campus policies since the early ’90s.
No decision or position has been made or stated yet, but Garcia did say that “there is concern. The board and the staff are very concerned about the safety of the students.”
Many of the details of what a closed CV campus would entail remain unclear, although Garcia has said that a closed campus would almost certainly include some sort of fencing and possibly increased security personnel. Were the board to approve closing the campus, Garcia said that it would take about six months for the district to iron out the logistics of such a project, starting in mid-February.
For that reason, questions of costs for erecting more fencing have been left up in the air. Some voters who approved Measure S in April have wondered about the usage of Measure S funds to build the proposed fencing, as Measure S was primarily touted as a measure that would address technological improvements at various school sites. Garcia has stated that some Measure S funds would be used to help build fencing because Measure S also covers “upgrading facilities.” Garcia also noted that some Measure S funds had been allocated for building more fencing before the talk of closing the campus, but that those funds were not allocated “through the lens of ‘we’re going to close the campus.’” The fencing was intended to keep strangers out of the campus rather than keep the students in.
Garcia assured some concerned members of the audience that even with the placement of increased fencing, “We don’t want this place to look like a prison.”
How the day-to-day operations of a closed Crescenta Valley High School campus would operate also remains a mystery until a decision is reached. Members of the audience brought up issues of overcrowding and the logistics of feeding the 3,000 students that make up the campus population.
While most students and parents appeared generally supportive of leaving the campus open, some residents living on nearby Altura Avenue expressed their frustration with unsafe driving and litter on their property, sometimes including drug paraphernalia, and all of it occurring during the lunchtime period.
Outside of those issues, one of the larger driving forces of the closed campus discussion is a car accident that occurred last school year on the Foothill (210) Freeway. The students involved in the accident phoned one of their parents rather than the police and were taken back to school that same day. Only later during school was it revealed that one of the students involved required serious medical care as he was suffering from a collapsed lung.
Garcia referred to the incident multiple times, stating “The overriding philosophical issue is whether the open lunch policy is a ticking time bomb, where we’re looking at the potential for a student to get seriously hurt at lunch.”
Anticipating that some may find closing the campus an extreme measure based on one car accident, Garcia reminded the audience that “Prom Plus was formulated out of one significant, tragic, horrible incident,” referring to the 1991 prom night murder of CV student Berlyn Cosman.
Many of those in support of leaving the campus open remained in support of an open campus after hearing the statistics, with many of them suggesting that a closed campus policy would be a way of punishing many for the misdeeds of a few.
PTSA President Liz Arnold said, “A small percentage of the campus is misrepresenting the entire student body.” She added, “The neighbors’ issues should be addressed, but closing the campus is not the answer.”
CV senior Demitri Camperos suggested an alternate solution.
“Perhaps if you limited the open campus lunch to students who meet certain criteria,” said Camperos. “We’re the only GUSD school with an open campus lunch. It’s wonderful and I love it. I think we should still have it, but by limiting who can go out we’re reducing the trash, the drugs, the tardies [and] we’re reducing space issues.
“I really think that’s the direction we should take.”