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An Open Mind to Open Campus

Students of Paso High wait in anticipation each day for the lunch bell, signaling the start of a 35 minute break away from the stress of school. Students rush out of classrooms eager to get a good spot in the lunch lines. However, some have other ideas. 

Tired of the unsatisfactory food, and wanting to escape from the borders of school, an estimated 50 students sneak off campus everyday without approval. With the temptation of Starbucks, Taco Bell, Panda Express, Chipotle, Jamba Juice, Wendy’s and Jack in the Box less than 0.8 miles away, Bearcats can be commonly found at these locations during lunch when they are supposed to be on school grounds.

The controversy of an open campus lunch at PRHS has been a long debated battle over the years. With multiple petitions started by the student body this year and thousands of signatures, a large majority of students are in favor of being able to leave campus at lunch. 

While the administration tries to prevent bearcats from leaving unsupervised every day, the effort is mostly unsuccessful: Students find any open door, hop fences, falsify off campus passes, and slip out of gates left open.

With growing complaints there is a sense of urgency for change. 

Head of Security and Assistant Principal Gerald Braxton shared that he has been talking to other high schools for research about their policies and is looking into a proposal for an open campus at Paso High for next school year. 

The requirements would weigh the number of tardies, GPA, and being off the no privilege list. He suggested students could use the Minga app as a pass through the 500 building gates.

Braxton explained that  wants students to build a sense of responsibility and ownership for their education. We already know that  young adults going off to college will be gaining more freedom. However, liability is a concern both legally and morally. Braxton assumed parents would have to sign a waiver, and there would be certain eligibility requirements but “a piece of paper does not affect us as human beings.” 

Any kind of accident would be hard to justify, he said, because at the end of the day, security wants to keep students safe. 

A recent student led attempt at earning an open campus lunch for upper-classmen was last September. Was spearheaded by senior Sienna Ramos, she explained, “Most of the other schools in our area have an open campus, and I don’t see why we wouldnt with so many food places so close.”  

A proposal was laid out and discussed at the student Senate incentivizing good attendance, high GPA, and meeting the eligibility requirements for graduation, similar to the current plan. The movement made great strides but was squashed by failure to communicate with administration. However, it was a crucial part in creating a discussion and getting students involved in ongoing conversations about the possibility.

The movement gained traction once again in early March as the ACT club decided to start another petition. Social Media Director of the club, Itzia Zinzun is in charge of getting signatures along with senior Jaime Barnett. 

“We were mainly inspired to start this up again because the school lunch food is not good, we need a change,” she said. Their plan is to collect 500 signatures and then bring their results to the school board to gain more attention on the matter in our community. 

As students have shared their frustrations and worked hard to earn recognition for the issue, administration has listened and responded with willingness to come to a compromise. While enforcing the rules and doing their jobs, admin has shown empathy to the cause and wants to see a change as well. Student leaders believe the end goal is in sight.

” Were jere to help you guys enjoy education. Its not a prison, its not a jail. Theres some things that you shouldnt be allowed to do and some things that I would like to see you allowed to do. It is an important part of your life which should be fun.”

Gerald Braxton
Assistant Principal
“We were mainly inspired to start this up again because the school lunch food is not good, we need a change,”

Itzia Zintzun
Petition Coordinator
“Most of the other schools in our area have an open campus, and I don’t see why we wouldnt with so many food places so close.”

Sienna Ramos

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