Fence Possible As District Looks To Close Campus

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Polo shirts? Fences? Color-coded identification cards?

Life could change for Payson High School students this fall. The previous district board voted in October to close campus during lunch for freshmen during the next school year.

And now, the newly seated board must decide how to do it.

The policy’s previous failure compounds the challenge of successfully enforcing a closed campus rule on a campus with no fences and many wide-open spaces.

During the 2006-2007 school year, the district closed the campus for freshman lunch. The district rescinded the policy after one year because the administration felt it wasn’t working as intended, according to a historical narrative from the district.

Disciplinary referrals rose, but the number of freshmen failing classes stayed relatively stable.

Last time, freshmen were supposed to attend a special advisory period before lunch, which was intended to help keep freshmen on campus during lunch. Also, the school began a link-crew program, which involved upperclassman mentoring freshmen.

The successful link-crew program still exists. The advisory period, however, was eliminated.

“You don’t want to make the same mistakes,” said board member Barbara Underwood, who also sat on this year’s committee to develop recommendations for successfully closing campus to freshmen next year.

She represented the community-at-large on the committee and said she would rather keep her opinions for later board discussions.

In October, the previous school board authorized closing campus after viewing data that revealed parents of eighth- and ninth-graders supported the measure, and freshmen are slightly more likely to arrive to class late after lunch than before lunch, among other things.

A committee met between January and April to recommend how to best close campus.

The results, recently presented to the board, included the possibility of requiring all students to wear polo shirts, providing freshmen with identification cards of a different color than other students, and having all students and parents of freshmen sign behavioral contracts outlining the policy and consequences. Upperclassmen could be punished for helping a freshman leave campus during lunch.

The board made no decisions after the recent presentation. Future discussions will involve prioritizing to decide what the school can implement before the July 29 start of school.

“Remember what this is,” said PHS Principal Roy Sandoval. “This is a committee comprised of the community.”

Included were parents, two teachers, school officials, the manager of Walgreens to represent local business and a representative of the district’s food service company.

Cliff Wilembrecht, the manager of Walgreens, said he looked forward to decreasing the number of students jaywalking across Beeline Highway. A car recently hit a student, he said, fulfilling his long-held prophecy.

Building a fence arose as the group’s top priority to increase security and help with enforcing the closed campus policy. The district is currently exploring different types of fences and how much installing one would cost.

Sandoval said officials from a recent school accreditation highly praised PHS, but asked, “how in the world do you keep safety and security for kids with this place as open as it is? And we said, ‘Man, it’s not easy,’” Sandoval said.

The second recommendation urged the board to add the closed campus rule to its policy to increase legitimacy, although the school would likely decide specific disciplinary action.

Also, four teachers during each lunch period could supervise the campus’ perimeter.

The recommendation for polo shirts originally centered on requiring just freshmen to wear them, but expanded to include all students.

“The committee felt it would enhance security by making students vs. non-students identifiable. Some felt it would also contribute to the esprit de corps on campus,” a committee presentation read.

Underwood said the board would likely ask the community about a possible polo shirt policy before implementing a change of that magnitude. “It’s not a uniform,” she said. “Don’t be using that four-letter word.”

Sandoval said implementing the recommendations is crucial for successfully closing campus.

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