Payson’s school board on Monday night unanimously agreed to close campus for high school freshmen during lunch, ending months of discussion and speculation about the measure’s financial and academic implications. The rule will be implemented next school year.
Monday’s decision followed stalemates in both August and September, when the board wondered how much a closed campus would cost to enforce and how many students actually arrive late to classes after lunch.
Some board members speculated that post-lunch tardies were significant, and looked to a closed campus to increase attendance. Other board members cited safety concerns or ending a traditional food services deficit.
Last month, the board asked for data on cost and student lateness.
The data, presented Monday, shows that an open campus barely inspires student lateness. On average, just over two students per day arrive late to class after lunch, compared to an average of about two students per day who come late to second period.
That data also showed that parents generally support a closed campus. Among those surveyed, 68 percent of parents with eighth- and ninth-graders were in support, compared to 32 percent who were opposed.
“That was compelling information, at least from my perspective,” said Superintendent Casey O’Brien.
In a survey of local businesses, nearly 79 percent predicted no significant financial impact. That includes most local fast food restaurants.
The only three businesses that predicted an impact were McDonald’s, Walgreens and the Pizza Factory.
In terms of expense, the district estimates a cost of $38,000 per year for 12 employees to spend 45 minutes each school day to guard various points on campus. O’Brien said the district could avoid any cost if the number of enforcers were cut to eight.
The projections also called for an end to the running food services deficit — an average of $23,000 annually.
However, a representative from Sodexo, the district’s food service company, reported Monday a profit so far this year. With a closed campus, officials predict an annual profit of $2,700.
“I wasn’t necessarily in support of it until I saw this information,” said board member Don Engler.
Although school officials have previously worried about enforcing a closed campus, O’Brien on Monday speculated that students would widely comply.
“I think 95 percent or more of the students are going to stay there because that’s the rule,” he said.
Students will eat during two periods, and the district anticipates a one-time expense for extra chairs.
Board member Mike Horton wondered if the district could recruit volunteers to help police the campus. O’Brien said volunteers often aren’t sure how to deal with non-complying students.
The board later directed officials to examine the potential of training community members for enforcement. Engler suggested supplying cameras to catch fleeing students on film. Over the next few months, administration will decide how to implement the new rule. A progress report is due in December.