January 16, 2005
The Mesa Unified School District is preparing to take a serious look at closing high school campuses during lunchtime.
In a narrow April 1999 governing board vote, the district decided to allow schools to choose whether to let students drive or walk off campus during an hour lunch break.
Mountain View High School opted to close its campus, except to seniors with parental permission to leave. Skyline High School has always been closed during lunchtime. All other schools are open during lunch.
Board president Mike Hughes said it may be time for the pendulum to swing the other way.
"My feeling is that we should close them," he said. "It comes down to student safety."
The issue resurfaced in December after two Dobson High School students were killed in a traffic crash. The girls were returning from lunch when another car apparently forced them into oncoming traffic.
The district is preparing research used in 1999 to present to the board during a study session noon to 4 p.m. Jan. 26. Public comment cannot be accepted during the study session, but it will be taken during a 7 p.m. Feb. 8 board meeting at the district’s curriculum center, 549 S. Stapley Drive.
Gerry Slemmer, principal at Red Mountain High School, said there are advantages to open and closed campuses. An open campus, he said, gives more flexibility for school clubs to meet or for lunch tutoring, and it teaches students responsibility.
"The disadvantages we all know," he said. "I hold my breath like everybody else as they leave campus."
Dennis Dayman, who on May 28 lost his grandson after another teenager spun a sports car out of control, plans to attend the meetings to urge the district to restrict student driving. He said parents also need to take more responsibility in making sure their children are mature enough to drive.
"It’s kind of constant, kids killing each other," Dayman said.