Off campus a long way off

Joanna Leski, Reporter

Senior Michelle Hathaway checked her phone. It was 12:10 P.M, only giving her four more minutes to get inside. Starbucks drink and pastries in hand, Hathaway quickly paced across Leyden’s parking lot. She ran to the auditorium entrance, expecting to see one of her friends waiting to open the door for her but saw a security guard waiting for her.

Hathaway was supposed to be on her way back to 8th period, but instead was directed to Dean’s Office, where she received a BIC for leaving the school building without permission. Hathaway served her BIC as she knew that she broke the rules of leaving the building, but she still continues to disagree with Leyden’s lunch policy, desiring an off-campus opportunity.

“To me, a break means being able to fully relax. It means getting into my car with my friends, jamming out to music, being able to have the freedom to choose what I want to eat for lunch that day, and actually being able to be away from school for those 20 something minutes. I appreciate just being able to catch a breath outside and be able to go to a different surrounding and completely forget about school for a short portion of my day.”

Not every student has dared to experience an off campus lunch, like Hathaway has. And unfortunately for Leyden students who’d like to leave (without having to stay late for a BIC) there’s little chance that the opportunity for off-campus can be created any time soon.

Schools with an off-campus policy do exist. Four out of fourteen schools which are a part of the West Suburban Conference of the Illinois High School Association, which includes both East and West Leyden, have an open campus lunch policy.

There is no current discussion about open campus lunch for Leyden. Dean of Students Dennis Byrne claims that he “has never thought about the possibility because it was never brought up or discussed.”

Dean of Students Mr. Michael Grosch shook his head at the question of an off-campus lunch policy ever being available for Leyden. “Not only would this cause too much traffic at attendance, kids would get caught by trains or just get caught in line at their favorite restaurant. Not many fast food places are close to Leyden, so many students would be going to the same place and not everyone can make it back. 25 minutes is not enough time to grab a lunch, eat it, and come back to school on time. My argument could be refuted by mentioning that Leyden can extend the lunch period, but that would take years to change as not every student would not want that option in the first place. It might be possible for one student that leaves to make it back on time, but not if the whole school decides they want Positano’s for lunch that day.”

Principal Jason Markey shared his view: “I wouldn’t say it could never happen, but there’s a couple of barriers. One primary barrier that is very unique to here is the trains. If you want to go to one of the places where you can eat quickly, which most happen to be across the tracks, this sets up problems for a short lunch period. Within a 25 minute lunch period and our surroundings where there are not a lot of places to eat really quick, it would be difficult. Just because it would be difficult doesn’t mean things couldn’t change.”

Though being able to leave campus seems like a long shot based on these factors, many problems could be mitigated by selectivity. Principal Jason Markey stated, “Largely, the parameters would rely on parent permission, something that freshman and maybe even sophomores don’t have: maybe it’s just upperclassmen. I haven’t thought much [of an]incentive or GPA requirement, but those are all good suggestions. I know some other schools that do that.”

Glenbard West High School in Glen Ellyn offers an open campus policy for sophomores, juniors, and seniors with no disciplinary problems, no suspensions, and few absences. York Community High School in Elmhurst allows seniors with good standing to leave the campus for lunch. Lyons Township North High School in La Grange allows juniors and seniors who live less than two blocks from campus to go home during lunch, and Oak Park River Forest High School in Oak Park River Forest allows off campus lunch for  juniors and seniors who have a 2.0 or higher GPA and administrator approval.

“If it’s something that there’s interest in and it’s feasible, I’d be more than happy to [discuss it.] But to be honest, it’s something I haven’t thought about a lot because it hasn’t been brought up a lot,” Markey said.