G-RF's open-campus lunch policy under review

G-RF's open-campus lunch policy under review

GEORGETOWN – School officials are reviewing the open-campus policy at Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School, and may vote next month to keep students on campus during lunchtime.

On Monday, Georgetown-Ridge Farm school board members heard a report from Terri Tate, the assistant principal at the high school, about the campus policies at nearby schools.

Currently, Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School students are allowed to leave school grounds during their 30-minute lunch period. But school officials are asking whether keeping students on campus would reduce the number of students who are tardy or absent from their after-lunch classes.

Tate said she contacted principals at other area high schools and found that most have had closed campuses for five or more years.

Tate said few area schools were in the same situation as Georgetown-Ridge Farm's, which has about 350 students and two fast-food restaurants within a few block of the high school. Oakwood High School, which is located in rural Fithian, and Jamaica High School, in rural Jamaica, are not close to any restaurants.

Other factors, such as student safety, need to be considered as well, Tate said.

"I can't account for students' whereabouts when they leave campus, and I don't like to be in that position," she said.

Some area principals told Tate they experienced an increase in on-campus smoking when campuses were closed. Tate said smoking or possessing tobacco on school grounds would still be prohibited on a closed campus, and that students found smoking or possessing tobacco would receive a five-day suspension on the first offense, a 10-day suspension on the second offense, and would be brought before the school board for any subsequent offenses.

"Students who smoke may want to look into quitting before next year," she said.

Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School Principal Steve Sliva said the cafeteria and its three cooks could accommodate all the students during the two half-hour lunch periods, although he agrees with Tate's recommendation that a fourth cook be hired and that additional lunchroom monitors be used.

Sliva also said he had spoken with the managers of three local restaurants, and that all three were open to the idea of selling food to students at the school, although details would have to be arranged.

"I think this is a good idea," Sliva said. "I hope that it will help attendance and reduce the number of students who are late for their classes."

Board President Jack Morrison asked Tate to contact area principals whose schools have open campuses, such as Paris High School and St. Joseph - Ogden High School, to ask them about their policies.

"I know the problems we are having, and they can't be allowed to continue," Morrison said. "Let's see if there are other ways to address them."

Superintendent Kevin Tate said he wanted the board to consider the issue thoroughly and quickly, and that he hoped to have board members vote on the open-campus policy in February.

Last fall, the board had an open forum in the Georgetown-Ridge Farm High School cafeteria that attracted about 50 students and their parents to discuss the school's student-attendance problems, the open-campus lunchtime policy and the suspension policies.

In other business, the board voted to apply for an $88,000 grant to make the lighting in district buildings brighter and more energy efficient.

Kevin Tate said the total cost of replacing the older ballasts and lights at Ridge Farm Grade School, Mary Miller Junior High School, Georgetown-Ridge Farm High, the concession building-bus garage and the superintendent's office is expected to be about $109,000.

The lighting in Pinecrest Elementary School was replaced a few years ago, Tate said.

The district should know by the end of May whether or not it will receive the Illinois Clean Energy grant, Tate said.

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