Payson High School administrators are considering a regulated campus rather than a closed campus, they reported to the school board Monday evening.
PHS principal Phil Gille and assistant principal Dan Maher based their recommendation on several factors, including cost, scheduling issues, and their own personal observation of student behavior within several blocks of the campus.
"I don't like the word ‘closed,'" Maher told the board. "I just hate the word, so we talked about having a regulated campus."
As explained to the board, students who demonstrate that they are responsible would be allowed to leave campus for lunch.
"What that means is that it would be a true Renaissance program, with students earning their way off campus," Maher said. "In other words, ‘I'm a good student. I don't have any tardies. I'm never absent. I work hard. Why should I have to stay on your campus for lunch.' Maybe you don't. Maybe we can let you go because you're a responsible student.
"On the other hand, I have somebody with five tardies, 14 absences. They have truancy problems. They have discipline problems. The campus is closed to (them)."
One problem with a regulated campus, Maher said, is that the campus still has to be physically secured. In the report he presented to be board, Gille estimated that fencing off the campus with the exception of the McLane Road side would cost $20,000, and three security guards would cost an additional $65,000.
Another issue Gille raised was the burden of extra teacher duties.
"Even with three security guards, it would be necessary to increase teacher duties because of the size of our campus and the number of parking lots," he said. "The duty schedule at the high school is (already) fairly heavy, and it's a real negative to be on duty because you're out there with students you don't know and when you address them, they're kind of wise mouths."
Because of the school's small cafeteria, the report also recommended a schedule with two lunch periods, one beginning at 11:15 a.m., and a second beginning at 12:15 p.m. Gille said such a schedule would not be popular with students, because they might not be able to eat with their friends.
Board president Viki Holmes introduced the closed campus discussion with a disclaimer.
"It was not our intention to close the high school campus tomorrow, in full or in part," Holmes said. "We were asking for your recommendation to address concerns we had, both as board members and parents ourselves and hearing it from our constituents."
Holmes said the board was concerned with three things: the absent and tardy rate following lunch, smoking and other substance abuse, and keeping visitors who don't belong off the campus.
At the Jan. 13 board meeting, board members Eileen Daniels and Carol Marchak told Gille they had been observing student behavior during the lunch hour and that something needed to be done. Gille was instructed to come back to the board with a recommendation.
Between the previous meeting and this one, Gille, Maher and assistant principal Dave Bradley split up the school day and patrolled a three- to four-block radius around the high school looking for the problems described by Daniels and Marchak.
"I found nobody smoking," Gille said. "I was looking for anything inappropriate within three blocks of the school and I couldn't find anything."
Maher jokingly described the only misbehavior he encountered.
"I drove into Woody's about 1 p.m.," he said. "The bell had probably just rung or it was two minutes til. I saw two young ladies come out of Woody's. They had bought a soda pop and chips and were headed back to school. That's about the worst thing I came up with during lunch."
Maher said Bradley also found slim pickings.
"I drove around in the morning a couple of times, ran into Mr. Bradley driving the other way," he said. "We waved at each other."
With the extra cost of securing the campus and the administrators' inability to find students misbehaving, Gille said his inclination is to maintain the status quo.
"I haven't seen enough in tight times in my personal opinion to justify that kind of an expenditure," he said. "When the state's tightening up on its budget, it would be pretty hard to justify."
In the end, the board opted to study the report in more detail at a work-study session scheduled for Monday, March 24, at 5:30 p.m.
The meeting, which will include some students and parents, will be open to the public.