Open Campus: Students Call for a New Policy


Melanie Caneja

Imagine you are sitting in study during first period and you have nothing to do. You are struggling to keep your eyes open, and you would do anything to have those extra minutes of sleep, wondering what the point is of being in school right now.  My question to you is simple: why are you at school right now?

At Walpole High, there is a very reward based system of education, meaning not only are students punished when they break the rules, but they are also rewarded when the follow them exceptionally.  For example, recently, the administration has offered responsible students certain privileges including the Daybreak Cafe and picnic tables for seniors during lunch.  These additions can be used as learning tools by the students, who are rewarded for good behavior. By giving students these privileges, they then learn that they can acquire other privileges if they continue to follow the rules.  Another reward that administration should definitely entertain is the idea of open campus.

As things are now at Walpole High, when students come to school after their study, they are marked tardy.  In addition, if students leave school when they have study last period, this absence is marked as a dismissal.  Both result in unexcused absences for the period missed.  These unexcused absences can then result in hours if a student has a certain amount.  Many students see this consequence as very unreasonable since they are not missing anything significant in a study that offers no credits, opposed to missing a class in which they actually get a grade.

When it comes to these unexcused absences, students are allowed six per semester per class.  If a student exceeds this number, they can lose credits in that particular course.  However, when it comes to studies, students do not receive credits, so the real debate lies within this idea: if a student does not receive credits in a course, why is it mandatory for them to attend class?

This question has been raised in many schools across the state, and some schools are starting to take action.  For instance, Belmont High School adopted an open campus policy for seniors back in 2010.  Seniors are allowed to apply for open campus privileges within the first week of school as long as they are not at risk of failing a class. Belmont High seniors are granted the opportunity to come and go as they please when they do not have a class to attend, and the superintendent of the school feels this is a great way to teach students responsibility.  It is extremely important for students to become responsible throughout high school for when they advance to high levels of education or get a serious career and are on their own, they need this skill to be successful.  So, the principal at Belmont feels he is helping his students do well in life by allowing them this type of freedom.

An idea such as this one should be implemented here at Walpole High.  When students have study, there is really no reason for them to be present since they are not receiving credits towards graduation.  Studies are considered to be a time during the day meant to give students a break from their day or catch some extra time for work.

In turn, it makes sense to question why this time of day, which is meant to be a break, cannot be used as a literal break from school and does not allow students to leave.

Open campus is a privilege that could teach many students self-sufficiency and allow already responsible students to exercise it.  For this change to happen, the school needs to seriously consider such a policy because many Walpole High students are definitely ready for this kind of responsibility.  Most students at Walpole High are always on time and present in their studies — this kind of consistency should most definitely be rewarded.

So, as students continue to display responsible behavior within the school, administration needs to consider giving those students the opportunity to display this responsibility outside of school and prepare for more than just the education in the future.  Open campus is a great policy to allow diligent students a chance to take a break from school and reward them for their behavior.  It will cause other students to strive to be better students in order to earn this privilege, and it will cause already good students to maintain their grades.  So, a policy based on reward, such as open campus, would be a great benefit to the school since it will give students a motive to be better.  In turn, administration should most certainly entertain this idea.