Permanent Recess

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Enough parents felt the same way to keep the school from changing its already lax policy after a debate on November 18.

Kriekard said he supports the school's decision since this "is the only case really where they had an incident. It's a decision that families make whether or not to sign the waiver. It was a privilege that seniors earned. Should the school really take that away from them?"

However, he admitted that schools "need to do a better job of making sure that only those kids with permission are the ones leaving, because other students are getting off. Kids get out and feel that they are invincible and that they know what they are doing. Some of it is supervision, some of it is education [on safer driving]."

Other schools have felt forced to take stronger measures after a lunchtime fatality.

The Gilbert School District implemented a closed-campus policy for all of its high schools after the senior from Highland was killed. The Mesa School Board closed Mountain View High School's campus two years ago after the fatal accidents there.

Chaparral High School, which experienced a lunchtime fatality in 1998, used to follow the same policy of all Scottsdale high schools, allowing juniors and seniors to leave, but keeping underclassmen on campus. But monitoring who could leave and who could not was next to impossible, says Kriekard, who was principal of Chaparral at the time. "Since so many people were leaving, we probably didn't do as good of a job as we should have checking who left. Some sophomores would get off and sometimes we caught them. It was just part of the game."

That's exactly what happened in 1998 when a sophomore left campus unnoticed during lunch and was killed when the car he was riding in was struck by another Chaparral driver. The subsequent uproar led Chaparral to conduct a telephone survey of parents.

"It was clear that what the parents wanted was to have the campus closed but allow seniors with parental permission to leave," Kriekard says. "So that's what we were going to do for the following year."

Before the policy took effect, however, the Scottsdale School Board stepped in, closing all five of its high school campuses completely. Not even seniors including those whose parents had given permission were allowed to leave campus during the school day.

Kriekard, along with students and many parents, was upset by the board's decision. He felt that students were cheated out of something that had already been agreed upon.

"I had worked with the juniors and sophomores, since they were the two groups that were most affected by the change," Kriekard says. "We developed more zero-hour classes. I worked with students on a better lunch [to encourage them to stay and eat on campus]. We worked out a lot of things and convinced people this was the way that we were going to go."

School board members, however, said safety came first. The closed-campus policy one of the strictest in the Valley remains in effect.

Mary Lou Muccino, Chaparral's current principal, says the new, tougher policy is working. "It definitely has made an impact, and to the best of our ability we enforce the closed-campus policy," she tells New Times. "We have more kids here for lunch. We expanded our cafeteria options, things for kids to have for lunch. We expanded our snack bar so we have a larger eating area to service everyone. We also lengthened our lunch period so we can service all of the kids."

Most important, Muccino says the school has truly beefed up security where it's needed most. All students have an ID card, she says, with a sticker showing which period they are done with school and are allowed to leave. "We have security guards posted in front of our parking lots, the lots are now gated and we now have control over who comes in and out of them."

If the first students affected by the change tended to complain, Muccino says, those complaints have gradually ended. "Every year since the accident, the number of kids who have even tried to leave has considerably decreased. These kids have never had the opportunity leave. They've never known what it was like."

Last week, another high school, Apollo in Glendale, debated whether to adopt a similarly tough closed-campus policy.

One of four schools in the Glendale Union High School District with an open campus (five others are closed), Apollo's principal and faculty are leaning heavily toward keeping students from leaving at lunch.

"There's an overwhelming support for safety issues and closer supervision of students because when they leave our campus, quite honestly, we don't know what happens to them during that half an hour," principal Deborah Greenfield told a group of about a dozen parents at a meeting February 11. She cited the short lunch period that students use to race to fast-food restaurants and return. "One of our parents called it the synthetic rush hour' that we have created to allow our kids to get off and get back. We've actually created an unsafe situation in this sense."

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