To Close or Not to Close – That is the Question

Opinions are being gathered as the school district ponders whether or not to close the only campus open for lunch.

Photo by Leonard COUTIN
Students pour out of the front doors of Crescenta Valley High School as the lunch bell rings. The open campus policy is under review by the school district.

By Jason KUROSU and Mary O’KEEFE

Crescenta Valley High School has enjoyed the status of being the only school in the district that allows its students to leave the campus during lunch. However, the discussion of rescinding that privilege has been open for years.

Car accidents, tardiness and drug-related incidents are among some of the student safety issues surrounding the potential closure of the campus during lunch.

The matter was discussed most recently at Tuesday’s Glendale Unified School District school board meeting. Deputy Superintendent John Garcia presented statistics regarding unexcused absences after lunch, as well as speaking on car accidents and arrests involving students in the last year

According to Garcia, an average of about 37.36 students a day had unverified absences for fifth period during the 2010-11 school year. For the first week of the 2011-12 school year, the district has already 30 unverified absences.

The average unverified absences per day for sixth period were 37.12. Those numbers are close to the fifth period statistics. So it appears students are gone for both periods.

“The issue [presented at Tuesday’s meeting] was the safety of the kids,” Garcia said. Traffic issues are a concern as students rush out and back within the 35-minute lunch break. Out of 30 weeks that were tracked, there were two traffic accidents in 2010-11. There was a small fender bender between two student drivers this week during the lunch break.

In light of incidents such as these, members of the school district and the community have remained open to the idea of closing the campus.

“Given that GUSD is responsible for the well being and safety of students during the entire school day (including lunch), we’re having conversations about how best to ensure that safety,” said board of education Vice President Christine Walters. “Closing the campus for lunch, like the other GUSD schools, is an option. I think that it’s important that we have conversations with CV school and community members to raise some of the specifics of our concerns and hear feedback about what that would mean for students, families and the surrounding community.”

The community outreach will continue when Superintendent Richard Sheehan and Garcia will be at the Crescenta Valley Town Council meeting to present an information presentation on the issue of safety at CVHS on Sept. 22.

Garcia said unverified absences and tardiness are greater at CVHS than other high schools within the district for the fifth period.

Tardiness was consistently higher for fifth period when compared to first through fourth period at CVHS.

Garcia said that administrators and school board members had been discussing the option of closing the campus for a while, however a closer look into the issue came after the increase in drug arrests on campus about two years ago. Although most of the arrests were made before the lunch break, the issue of fifth period tardiness and absences became a concern, Garcia said.

The CVTC website has a survey asking residents to weigh in on the issue of closing the campus. As of Wednesday, 52.81% were in favor of closing the campus, 37.08% thought the open policy was fine, and 7.87% were undecided and 2.25% stated “other.”

The majority of the comments on the website are against the closing citing school size and businesses that would be affected. One comment referenced the high school’s large population that should be taken into account.

The concern that students would not be able to find a place to eat or have time to get lunch has been raised before when the campus closing has been brought up.

In an impromptu discussion at a recent Fire House teen center night, students argued that even when teens leave the campus, as is currently allowed, those who stay on campus have little time to get food, much less eat, after standing in line at the cafeteria or at one of the lunch carts before the 35-minute lunch period run out. Concerns were raised that with a closed campus, the additional students staying on-site will make the situation worse.

A negative impact on local business is another concern expressed on the CVTC website. The careful balance between businesses and residents was mentioned. The residents have complained to the school about the garbage and general disrespect of the students of nearby homes.

Another issue raised was that, with this economy, taking lunch dollars away from local businesses would not benefit anyone.

Comments dealt with the issue of drugs, stating that closing the campus would not prevent kids from getting or using drugs. “Ultimately you as a parent need to monitor your child’s behavior and friends closely,” the writer stated.

Another suggestion was that the 30-plus students who had unverified absences should be targeted for discipline and “let the other 2,970 students enjoy lunch the way they want.”

The decision of an open or closed campus ultimately lies with district, not the principal of CVHS or any of the staff. The CVTC does not have any official opinion of the campus being opened or closed, at this point.

“The council is a venue for the information,” said Cheryl Davis, CVTC president. “I appreciate the [district] coming to our community to discuss this issue.”

The CVTC meeting is on Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. at the La Crescenta Library Community Room. The public is invited to join in the discussion.

Another parent meeting will be held sometime in December, Garcia said.

CVTC website is