Should VCHS be closed campus?

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By Dave Bell

If you drive in the area of Vandalia Community High School around noon, its clear that the school has an open-campus lunch hour. In all kinds of weather, dozens of students can be seen walking to nearby fast-food restaurants and convenience stores.

Should we care if high school students eat their lunch at school or go to one of the fast-food restaurants within walking distance? What are the concerns, the potential liabilities, the disruptions to the educational process that would prompt school officials to consider closing the campus?

And what do the students and their parents have to say about it?

If you want to know more, next Monday is your chance. The Vandalia Board of Education will be hosting a roundtable discussion about the possibility of adopting a closed-campus policy at the school. The roundtable will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the VCHS cafeteria.

We feel that having a closed campus would limit discipline problems during lunch hour and reduce truancy in the afternoon, said Vandalia Superintendent of Schools Rich Well. Its also a potential school liability issue when students are off campus.

According to Wells research, Vandalia is the only school in the Bond, Fayette and Effingham region with an open campus during the 30-minute lunch period. Even with that open campus policy, students arent allowed to drive (or even be in their cars) during the lunch break.

Well said that school officials will need to ramp up three areas if the school board opts for a closed lunch hour: additional lunchtime supervision personnel, expanded menu offerings and more designated gathering places for students after they finish eating.

At first glance, the closed campus seems to make sense for student safety, and to limit discipline and truancy problems. If parents or members of the community have other thoughts, now is the time to voice them.