Lunch freedom remains

Students leave South Whidbey High School during the 30-minute lunch period in search of burgers and pizza. Some seniors are allowed off campus during lunch if they meet academic and behavior criteria. - Gayle Saran
Students leave South Whidbey High School during the 30-minute lunch period in search of burgers and pizza. Some seniors are allowed off campus during lunch if they meet academic and behavior criteria.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

Variety adds spice to life.

At least that's what some South Whidbey High School seniors claim. The only students in the school district allowed to leave campus for lunch, seniors say change in lunch venue and fare gives them the variety they crave -- if only for a few minutes a day.

In spite of the fact that high school students have only 30 minutes for lunch, between 10:38 to 11:08 a.m., they are not shy about leaving campus for a quick bite at a local eatery, especially since the school district approves of it. For some students the reason to go off campus is simply that they can.

"We have the privilege, so I use it," said senior Joselyn Helland on her way out of the high school for a lunch break this week.

It's a unique privilege. The high school has a closed campus except for seniors, a policy that must be renewed and approved by the district's board of education annually. The board approved a resolution last month allowing the class of 2003 off campus for lunch. But, as in it does every year, the measure came with the admonition that open lunch can be revoked at any time and that poor behavior this year could ruin the privilege for future classes.

One of the conditions for approval is an annual review of the performance of the previous senior class and of the junior class, which is the current petitioner. High school parking lot infractions and off-campus violations are considered in the decision.

"Last year's junior and senior classes did a good job," said Eric Nerison, the high school's vice principal. "It's why I endorsed the request."

To qualify for off-campus privileges, seniors must submit a contract to the administration during the first two weeks of school showing they will meet certain criteria and have their parents' permission, Nerison said. About 100 students have turned in contracts this year.

Students must be passing all classes and have a 2.0 grade point average in the previous term, have no record of any disciplinary action during the previous or present semester which warranted an in-school or out-of-school suspension. They must maintain good attendance and punctuality. Parking lot and driving behavior is also monitored.

"Students are not allowed to hang out in the parking lot at lunch and they must drive in and out in an orderly fashion," Nerison said.

So where do the students go during their half hour of freedom? Pizza and coffee are favorites, as is a run down to Clinton for a fast food stop at Dairy Queen. The choice, seniors say, is up to them.

"I like the variety of food we can buy off campus," said senior Shannon Brown. "It's different than what's offered in the cafeteria. My friends and I like to go for a coffee and a bagel."

At lunch time, the doors at the school don't exactly burst open with a torrent of outgoing students. Seniors get to the parking lot quickly, leave quickly and return only as soon as they must, keeping in mind the parking lot is being watched. Even though it is a bit of a rush and getting lunch down is more a matter of gulping than chewing, just getting off campus is enough for some.

"I don't leave every day, but once in awhile it's a great break from the whole school routine," said senior Khori Bolner

Students are expected to follow school rules off campus, which include not driving in the same vehicle with a younger student and staying away from restricted areas like the ball fields and the South Whidbey Community Park. Both the school and parents can, at any time, take the open lunch privilege away from individual students.

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