RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — The following is a letter from the Ridgefield Board of Education about allowing high school seniors the chance to have an open campus.
Giving responsibility to young adults can guide them to making smart choices. An open campus can provide a break from the stress of the school day and provide responsible students with a feeling of freedom and independence.
Seniors at Ridgefield High School want to prove to the adults around them that they can be responsible, cautious and more importantly, mature young adults who are en-route to a lifestyle that offers them unabridged freedom. This option allows those freedoms to be tested in a controlled, secure manner.
At the May 29 Board of Education meeting, the high school student government presented a comprehensive plan for an open campus privilege for seniors. After lengthy discussion and deliberation, the board approved a hybrid of the plan allowing for freedom for those who earn it. Dr. Gross then decided to begin the privilege later in the year after she had had the opportunity to get to know the students at the high school personally. As she is the person who will be guiding the success of this plan, her comfort with it is paramount.
As approved, the open campus policy allows seniors, who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and who have no more than two unexcused absences and five tardies during the previous marking period, plus no serious disciplinary offenses, the ability to leave the high school campus when they have a minimum of 90 minutes free from classroom obligations. In addition, a student's parents must sign an agreement with the district giving permission for their child to leave school grounds during school hours.
As such, the program is set up to work as an incentive for good behavior and academic performance. It is not a true open campus, rather an "earned privilege." The high school administration has also made it clear that they would not hesitate to revoke a student’s open campus privilege if that student began to commit infractions of the rules that allowed them the freedom of open campus.
It is also extremely important to note that the decision to allow the open campus option for students, who qualify, is one that must be made collaboratively between school officials and parents. Ridgefield High does not bear responsibility to supervise students during the periods they are permitted to leave campus under this option. Thus, while high school administrators will review school eligibility requirements, parents are better equipped to assess their child’s driving ability and level of independent responsibility.
In addition to the rules that govern the program, students who qualify will get a special sticker for the back of their ID cards. The stickers are designed in such a way that they cannot be altered. At the end of the day, the Board of Education believed that open campus creates a positive incentive model and ultimately allows students to demonstrate responsible behavior. We believe that our students will rise up to the added responsibility that an open campus provides.
The Ridgefield Board of Education believes in its students and also believes that their parents know them best and as such have forged a partnership with students and parents in this new privilege. We look forward to its success.