The possibilities of an open campus

Students driving away from campus during lunch break (Photo: Maddie Qualls, The Puma Prensa)

by Maddie Qualls, editor

Imagine: You crawl out of bed before the crack of dawn, running on four hours of sleep. You go to school, enduring up to five hours of classes, and you’re tired. You barely made it through your fourth period without dozing off. You think, “Wow, I could really use caffeine right now,” because you might not survive two more hours. Well, you could pull out of the parking lot, drive to Oliver’s, get your caffeinated beverage of choice and return with time to spare.

Alternate scenario: You wake up late…panic ensues. You don’t have time to eat breakfast or pack a lunch. Are you going to wait until four in the afternoon to have your first meal or even snack of the day? Yes. Because you have to go to school. But it doesn’t have to be this way—you still have to go to school–but you could head to Oliver’s, get sushi or a burrito, come back to school and finally eat. 

I have one more for you: It’s a Wednesday. You have a free fifth period. You do not want to linger around campus, and you’re also exhausted. Guess what? You could go home during lunch, jump into your bed, set an alarm, take a power nap and return to school. And you might even have spare time to work on homework. Look at you, being well-rested and productive.

This all would be nice, but Maria Carrillo High School has a closed campus, meaning students cannot leave during school hours without permission from the school. However, when asked if students adhere to this policy, MCHS Assistant Principal Andrew Campbell responded that administration has noticed that some students do still leave during lunch breaks. Therefore, the rule is frankly not effective, and if students care about their education and grades, they likely won’t want to have an unexcused absence and deal with those consequences, meaning they will probably come back. So what’s the big deal if a student wants to get a Yerba Mate?

“[The closed campus] makes us feel trapped, and we have less freedom than other schools,” said senior Hallie Phillips. 

Even Campbell said that he would advocate for a more open campus. “I had an open campus in high school, and I really enjoyed it,” said Campbell. He added that it taught him time management and responsibility.

However, he stated that MCHS has a closed campus for the safety and supervision of students as well as parent and community preference because some parents want their students to be kept on campus, and the school does not want to overwhelm community businesses. 

I have a system to propose. If you were on campus before last year, you probably remember the passes to leave advocacy early that students could earn by getting above a 3.0 GPA. Well…I think a similar system would work in earning the privilege to leave and return to campus. Juniors and seniors with qualifying GPAs should be able to leave during lunch and free periods. If a student has maintained good grades, that demonstrates that they probably care about their education, so they likely would return for their last class(es). 

Senior Maile Brucklacher also pointed out that if you forgot an assignment, you could drive home to get it during lunch break or a free period if we had an open campus. “Junior and senior years are the hardest, so we don’t often prioritize our well-being,” added senior Anshal Walia, but she noted that having an open campus would allow students to go get food and destress.

There would be obstacles to work through in organizing this system, such as coordinating with parents and the community, but it would be freeing and rewarding to hard-working students. It would also be especially helpful to students with free periods that aren’t first or sixth because they would be able to use their free time to do something worthwhile rather than watching Netflix in the library. 

We are at school a lot: Monday through Friday, we spend half of daylight hours at school. I do not see the harm in allowing students a lunch break or free period away from campus. It could only make students happier, and when I’m well-rested or in a good mood, I am much better equipped to sit through lectures, participate in discussions, write essays and work on assignments.

This small change is not the fulfillment of some fantasy of teenage freedom; it just might make us a little happier.

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