Written by Island Trees Superintendent of Schools Dr. Charles Murphy Friday, 12 November 2010 00:00
Island Trees students have many choices for lunch this year, but as long as the choice is made in the Island Trees High School cafeteria and not at McDonald’s, Gino’s, Taco Bell or any of the other fast food restaurants lining Hempstead Turnpike. The high school is now a closed campus, meaning no student may leave the school campus during the day. Once the homeroom bell rings, students are expected to remain in the school for the remainder of the day. The closed campus concept has been discussed in the community many times; however, no one believed the idea could be implemented or for that matter even work in our high school. Fortunately, Mr. Grande, our high school principal, the faculty, and our students have worked together to make the concept a reality.
Last year, the Island Trees Board of Education and school administration expressed serious concern about the safety and well-being of students leaving the campus during lunch. During any given lunch period, we had with students speeding out to lunch and racing back to the high school for their next class. Equally concerning, we had scores of students dashing across Hempstead Turnpike - labeled one of the most dangerous roads in New York State. These reasons alone were cause for closing the campus in order to prevent an unforgivable and tragic student fatality.
Frankly, we had many people concerned with the closed campus school environment. In particular, they felt the number of students in the building would be unmanageable during our lunch periods and said things like this: The school will be a zoo during lunch periods; kids will be all over the building; what are we going to do with all of these students,...the comments went on and on about the unruly atmosphere which would be created by this new policy. Surprisingly, what we anticipated to be a difficult transition turned out to be quite the opposite. The building has never been more manageable and conducive to learning.
Equally pleasing, Mr. Grande shared some very interesting data with me. As of October 22, 2010, we have had 15 “student cuts”; at this point last school year over 400, a remarkable decrease of 97 percent. Naturally, the school administrators and faculty can manage the students much more effectively with the students confined to the building. By allowing students to leave campus, our school personnel could not effectively supervise the number of students coming and going or even the ones who ended up walking around the school hallways. Clearly, the atmosphere was not a productive one for learning.
Of course, we had students upset with the decision to close the campus this year. Some felt we should phase the decision in over time, but if our concern was truly safety – then safety begins now, not over time. Fittingly, the students have been absolutely terrific about making the closed campus work. We have added outdoor seating to our building courtyards; increased the number of menu choices for students; and, we are in the process of putting together a student lounge for our senior class. Indeed, we are very proud of the manner in which our students have adjusted to the change. Kudos to our high school students!
In summary, we are grateful the board of education was able to provide the leadership and support for the closed campus endeavor. The entire staff appreciates the new school atmosphere and we are eternally grateful to have students in a safe and very sound learning environment.