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Board of Ed Approves Open Campus For Ridgefield High School

Open campus will go into effect at Ridgefield High School in the fall. Only seniors who maintain a 2.5 GPA, have no more than two unexcused absences and five tardies during the school year, and no serious disciplinary offenses, will qualify.

This fall, seniors at will be able to arrive late, leave early, or leave and return to campus mid-day when they have an unscheduled block of 90 minutes or more.

The Ridgefield Board of Education on Monday approved an framework for Ridgefield High School that allows qualifying seniors to .

Unlike other open campus schedules, Ridgefield High's is limited to seniors who maintain a 2.5 GPA and who have no more than two unexcused absences and five tardies during the school year, plus no serious disciplinary offenses. What's more, a student's parents must sign a contract 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.

Amy Shinohara, one of four board members supporting the measure in Monday's 4-2-1 vote, said "six months ago I never would have considered voting for this proposal," but after the detailed plan (see attached PDF) was presented by the student government and high school administration, "I came to appreciate it."

"You guys did a great job, in terms of putting parameters around this," Shinohara told outgoing RHS Principal Jeffrey Jaslow and representatives from the student government, who conceptualized and developed the proposal, which was introduced in April. "It is not a true open campus, it is an 'earned privilege,' which I appreciate."

Shinohara added, however, that the school board was "very, very nervous about what could go wrong… and we're going to be watching this very closely."

Chairman Austin Drukker said the board had debated the idea of open campus many times in the past, "but I've never seen a proposal as well put together as the one we received." He said the measure already has the support of , "and I think the parents in this town in general have been supportive of this for a long time." He said if seniors are allowed to "blast around in their cars on a Friday night… I don't see a problem with leaving the school during the daytime and coming back."

Board Member Christopher Murray said he too supported the measure and wanted to see it implemented right away. "The kids need it, they earned it," he said. "What I like about is that it is self-limiting. It has a built-in safety component to it, in terms of the kids who will avail themselves of it."

Murray added that he wanted the high school administration to attempt to track how the seniors use their time when off campus "and to validate [the program] by showing productivity gains."

Board member Karen Sulzinsky, however, had the complete opposite view of the plan.

"In light of the risky behaviors that some of our students have engaged in… this is not a good policy to approve right now," she said, adding that there is "no accurate predictor for risky behavior… not GPA, not attendance, not whether they are captain of the athletic team."

"I think this is an accident waiting happen," Sulzinsky said. "I think the risk is too great… and I think the Board of Ed has no business getting between parents and their children. If parents want to give their children extra freedom and extra responsibility that's up to them — but we don't have any right to be in the middle of that."

Sulzinsky said she feared it could open up liability problems for the town in the event a student gets into an accident while off-campus during school hours.

"Our function is to educate — and during school hours, the kids should be in school," Sulzinsky said. "That is our function, to look out for their education and their safety. I think this is a foolish road to go down."

She said the proposal would place an additional administrative burden on the school staff, as they will have to track student performance and review each student's eligibility for the program.

"I would rather they spend their time, stretched as they are, focusing on the education of our children," Sulzinsky said.

Sulzinsky pointed to other districts' problems with open campuses — for example Weston High School recently adopted an open campus schedule (download PDF), however due to some problems there, "the police chief wants it abolished," she said. In addition the had expressed its opposition to the plan, she said.

Earlier in the meeting, a school parent who spoke against the proposal said it had been requested under the "false premise" that the high school does not have adequate quiet space for study time. In the proposal, the students assert that the open campus framework will give seniors the ability to do school work or apply to colleges from the comfort of their own homes, as opposed to the often crowded common areas at the high school.

"Seniors have plenty of opportunities to exercise their freedoms — and yes parents can sign 'no' on the form — but we can't disregard the 900 pound Gorilla in the room: peer pressure," she said. "Have we learned nothing about the effects of peer pressure recently? Have we not seen top students and athletes show extremely poor judgment during the free time they already have? And why isn't there a 3.5 GPA minimum requirement for this privilege?"

"You're complicit in creating an unsafe environment for them, and making responsible parent's jobs harder," the mother said. "Please stop trying to be the popular parents: Educate, don't abdicate."

At one point it seemed the board might not proceed with its vote since several board members learned to their dismay that the proposal lacked any parameters for what disciplinary actions might lead to a student losing their open campus privilege.

Board member Mike Raduazzo asked if seniors in the open campus program would be held to the same disciplinary standards as athletes on high school  sports teams. He wanted to know how the administration will determine when a student should lose the open campus privilege.

Jaslow explained that there are four different tiers of disciplinary action, but added that even with a "tier one" offense, a student may or may not face a detention, as it would be a judgment call based on the offense. Level three and four disciplinary tiers usually entail suspension, possibly expulsion, Jaslow said. He added that any student who is suspended would be automatically removed from the program — however a student who gets a single detention may or may not.

For a period of about 15 minutes the board debated whether an offense resulting in detention should be enough to take away the privilege — or if only suspensions should result in revocation. Ultimately it was decided that it should be up to the Open Campus Committee (established under the proposal) and the administration to determine student eligibility, on a student-by-student basis.

Jaslow said if a student's offending behavior "becomes repeated or chronic," the administration would not hesitate to revoke that student's open campus privilege.

Students who qualify for the program will get a special sticker for the back of their ID cards so that they can be distinguished from non-qualfying students.

Board member Russell Katz cast the second "nay" vote, while board member Richard Steinhart abstained.

localmom June 14, 2012 at 12:40 AM
The way the 8-day rotation works, there is no pattern of having the same 2 periods free. That's one of the reasons why it was instituted. Days A-H are not the same.
Big Boy June 14, 2012 at 09:47 AM
Still, very few parents understand this idea in "Open High School". This is not a new concept. Maybe some parents have heard of "Modular Scheduling " as it was called "back in the day". Kids are not going to be looking to drop classes so they can have more free time. This type of scheduling prepares students for the type of scheduling they will encounter in the colleges and universities they plan to move on to after graduation. I do recall some students trying to free up more time off towards the end of the day, but that was usually to be able to get a job. This is an excellent opportunity for your children to continue to grow and develop into the responsible independent young adults we all want our children to become.
Twins! June 14, 2012 at 03:11 PM
I'm surprised to see how much of the time these students are not in school. They can miss first period and last period and two hours during the day? They also take off for 6 weeks at the end of the year for internships? Doesn't sound like there is much of a senior year at all.
Taylor Kazlauskas June 14, 2012 at 04:35 PM
I graduated in 07 and I'm telling you right now, kids are going to use this time to get drunk and high, either driving around or at a house. Then they will be speeding back messed up on something risking all lives on the road. And don't sign the form? Kids are gonna go regardless, sneaking away in cars owned by kids who do have the sticker. Its not all rainbows and butterflies in this town, especially at the high school.
Tom Falconieri June 14, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Some general answers are that teenagers are irresponsible, reckless and not mature enough to handle that kind of freedom; therefore, they become a liability to the school. A Lawyer that won a suite for negligence against a school district!!!
Lynn C June 14, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Taylor it is great to get a response from someone who has been there! Unfortunately, because so much of what goes on in this town is swept under the rug, many citizens are unaware of what truly goes on. Yes, there will be responsible students who will not abuse the privilege, but as you say there are those who will regardless of a parent signature or not. I hope strong disciplinary actions will be in place for those that do abuse it, which at the moment, I am not convinced of, since the school seems to "change the rules in the middle of the game" as it is. Eventually the pile under the rug will get to big and hopefully something will be done.
Tom Falconieri June 14, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Exactly the kids leave with or without permission what else is NEW. So only the ones that have permission are legal and no issues. Not true if one of those kids gets hurt rushing back to not be late the school will be SUED. Several cases have been won.
Lynn C June 14, 2012 at 07:08 PM
Yes Andy, I was told directly by an assistant principal that they do not have to post any change in policies to the students or parents. So, when I asked if they thought it was okay to"change the rules in the middle of the game", I was told that they had no responsibility to inform students or parents.
sebastian dangerfield June 14, 2012 at 09:44 PM
Tom-- Are any adults exactly the same way?
sebastian dangerfield June 14, 2012 at 11:03 PM
Taylor Kids will go regardless? And you know they are coming back drunk? And they were doing that when you were there? And the only person that noticed it was you? No teachers or administrators? Hmm.... Sure, --that makes sense. Then there should be no policy. If kids come and go as they please already--and even come back (why would they come back) when they got drunk -no one noticed...then why bother arguing about a policy. Its like arguing about changing the speed limit from 55-56 no one goes 55 anyway. Why argue?
Taylor Kazlauskas June 15, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Luca, there are plenty of ways around administrators with alcohol. Kids know what is going on around them. If they dont, they must be the ones that will use this open campus policy to study and apply for colleges. Or I'm wrong and there ARE rainbows and butterflies up and down the halls at RHS. But I have a feeling I'm right. Good luck to the class that got this privilege, got some good persuasion skills kids, I tip my hat.
Rosemary Casey June 15, 2012 at 02:12 AM
luca, stay focused on the topic. Throwing all this other nonsense in the mix often indicates no argument at all. This topic is important, regardless of the time that has passed as you so kindly stated. It happened and it could happen again, my point was why take those chances and heighten the likelihood. That's pretty straightforward, right?
sebastian dangerfield June 15, 2012 at 04:52 AM
Taylor? I have no idea what you are saying. "If they dont know whats around them, they are the ones using the open campus to study? Or there are rainbows...blah" If you are saying that kids drink who want to drink- I agree. That those kids will leave school regardless if there is an open campus or not. So? All you have done then, is allow the other kids , who follow rules to get a break. What added danger is there?
sebastian dangerfield June 15, 2012 at 05:04 AM
rosemary-- The time between incidents is not irrelevant. it goes to the probability. If you cant figure that out--im sorry. Rosemary, unfortunately there are schools with shootings --should we ask our kids to either go through metal detectors or have search dogs at RHS? School shootings do happen--right? Should we eliminate football? There have been kids around the country that die each year practicing in the heat etc. This is all on topic, rosemary--because searching the internet for tragedies and then saying its possible --misses the point, at a certain point. To me you should also look at the thousands of open campuses around the country and also take note of all the years that go by without incident. Why do you want to find the exception? Answer--you are against it--so therefore, its relevant. But my questions above about metal detectors and football are not rhetorical. If you think that exceptions are worth creating policy for--then could you tell me why you are for or against metal detectors and halting athletics etc. We dont live in a bubble. Thats my attitude. I still have yet to hear why getting out of school at 130 instead of 230 creates all this greater risk. Chris and RHS parent spoke about parents perhaps not being home--- (they work) but Chris forgot in his poorly thought out argument, that when RHS students get out at 230 --if both parents work--they will be working past 230 anyway. Poor arguments are annoying.
Taylor Kazlauskas June 15, 2012 at 05:18 AM
I said kids would go regardless if they have a sticker or not. If their friends are going to a house the kid is gonna sneak into the back of the car, or find some way not to get left out. Kids were not leaving campus to go drink when I was there, they drank in school. Water bottles with vodka in the bathroom, etc. Now kids can sit at their comfy homes with friends take a few shots, drink a few beers, and head back to school on a blunt loop. Safe? absolutely not. Again, why even risk one life? For a few kids to get the chance to study at home? Is it worth it? Trust me. If I was in school I would be crying for this to get passed, so I could go play Call of Duty or something. But now, knowing what I know, it isn't worth it. It is obvious (front cover of this weeks paper) that kids are making terrible decisions out there and this is just giving them another way to make mistakes.
Tom Falconieri June 15, 2012 at 10:35 AM
Taylor i have 5 kids and at various times they grabbed their cars and drove off to do whatever they wanted. Thank god they were good and did not get in trouble. But you are 100% correct about sneaking out. It is been dun for years and it will keep happening with or without permission. But now the school condones it and puts regs on it. So the smart kids get rewarded and the dumb kids sneak out. As usual the BOE DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE. Either way thank god my kids are grown and are doing just fine . When they were in the high school they sneaked out several times. Even ore y funnier 4 are now TEACHERS!!!! GO FIGURE!!!
Lynn C June 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM
@Luca...fyi this RHS parent does not work outside the home...not that it should make any difference to you or in the concerns I expressed. Your assumptions are "annoying", not discussions about issues that citizens of the town feel that are important. No need to personally attack anyone on this page.
sebastian dangerfield June 15, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Rhs parent...i think u criticized the board? They have rwal names...rhs parent is not real. taylor...im going to guess is not who she claims to be. " id play call of duty or something".... sounds like an adult who guesses what students do. As far as drinking in school? Taylor. Think. If they drink in school...and drive home....is that safe? Haha. Amazing the thought processes here aimed at trying to establish some authoritative voice. " i was a student. And kids drank." Wow...the lengths to which people go.
sebastian dangerfield June 15, 2012 at 08:32 PM
Rhs...what do u mean this parent doesnt work outside the home? Fine. Then the argument of drinking at working parents' homes doesnt apply. Simple
Lynn C June 15, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Luca keep track of what you said..."Chris and RHS parent spoke about parents perhaps not being home--- (they work) "....I was merely saying I do not work outside the home...also, regarding the BOE i said I wished they would have had a public hearing on this as they did with the school closing...there was NOT a public hearing on this, yes, you were allowed to speak at a regular BOE meeting at which you are limited to 2 minutes according to their codes. I have spoken to many BOE members and sent emails regarding this issue. And Luca stop comparing High School students to adults, I'm sure you know the difference between the rules for a "minor" and an adult.
Taylor Kazlauskas June 16, 2012 at 04:06 PM
Luca. One, I'm a guy, not a girl. Two, I am as real as can be. Look me up on facebook, or 06'-08' RHS football. If you would like to look up my xbox live name, its Kazman21. So good call there. All I am saying is that its not worth risking the lives of kids by giving others the opportunity to study at home when the library and computer labs are more than enough. Its not safe that they drive home after drinking in school, but at least they have time to sit off the drunk or high they get during school during the 7 hours of sitting in a desk. But its fine, apparently you know more than I do when it comes to RHS and how kids act these days. Relax a little bit. Its all going to be alright.
Taylor Kazlauskas June 16, 2012 at 04:09 PM
sorry 05'-07' varsity football.
Seamus Gavin June 16, 2012 at 06:58 PM
Taylor, Luca knows more about Anything, than Anybody, just ask her. While you're at it, ask her what her real name is.
sebastian dangerfield June 18, 2012 at 05:02 AM
Taylor Ok so it looks like im wrong on you being fake...sorry about that. I read too many posts from pretenders (like Seamus who bet me 1k that he was a vietnam vet, but then changed his name instead of proving anything... ) I dont see how walking around with a water bottle at 130pm and drinking vodka is safe to drive home. Or safer than if the kid goes off campus and drinks and drives. Either way they are on the road --the biggest difference being--if they are home they DONT HAVE TO GET ON ROAD. If you are at school..you have to get in the car. Im sure we both have an idea of how kids act these days. Observing one or 8 kids who are idiots doesnt mean you should set policy around them-- Im sure a kid at least once or 8 times in the past 5 years has brought a weapon of some sort to RHS as well...yet I dont think the idea is to punish the entire student body because of the awareness of a few dopes. Taylor--im sure you are aware that house parties with alcohol exist --and are held with great regularity. Right? Youre telling me to relax? haha....Im the one saying --relax --the world wont end if there is an open campus. Yu are the one predicting or describing all the dangers. Funny how that works.... Im saying cut the crap - the kids who were going to get drunk during school --are still gonna get drunk during school. And you are saying "the sky is falling!!! kids are super giant drinkers!!!! and now you are telling me to relax. Funny.
Char Millerick June 19, 2012 at 01:22 PM
The petty arguements on this post have gotten a little out of hand. Anyway, as a student who graduated last year, I completely agree with Taylor. There are not enough students who will use the program for its original intention-studying-and the rest for being to go home and do whatever they like. While not all, most high schoolers have two parents that work, giving students the window of opportunity for drinking. Taylor is right--there are students who bring alcohol to school and yes, it is not safe for them to drive home afterwards, but this is a problem much more easily controlled than giving students free range in the middle of the day--with little chance of being caught. In addition, some of the earlier posts mentioned students taking fewer classes to get out of school--this will DEFINITELY happen. If a student can take an elective, or be able to go home, what do you think they're going to choose? If a student has the 5 and 6 block free, do you think they're going to come back to school just for 7th block? Although the program is based on good attendance, an excused absence is not hard to fake. Lastly, students who aren't allowed to leave will find a way to--parking stickers on cars have been faked for years, what makes you think a sticker on a student ID won't be forged as well? This program has too many flaws to be used effectively. Although not all students will abuse the power, a few will and ruin its entirety for everyone else. This program will not last.
Char Millerick June 19, 2012 at 01:23 PM
And a 2.5 GPA? Not nearly high enough to gauge "trustworthiness" and "responsibility".
sebastian dangerfield June 19, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Char.. You seem to have a few conflicting or difficult to understand concepts in your post. 1- the idea of kids drinking presently in school. Both you amd taylor mention it...but i fail to see the connection to why this disqualifies an open campus from iccuring. But let me more simply ask, if you know it and taylor intimated its a well known fact, how can you conclude that this is " a more easily controlled priblem" you infer that it isnt controlled. How can you quantify it being more controllable when it isnt now? next..is your concern abiut kids being caught? Or the roads being unsafe? If the kids cut 7th...why do you care? They are at home..off the road, doing apparently what they would have done in school then driving home. Why is the former a better result? That they have a better chance of being caught? Thats the goal? endstatement with they can be ca
sebastian dangerfield June 19, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Next...your prediction of failire is not very well supported. A check of the internet reveals hundreds, if not thousands of successful ssful high achools across the country with open campuses. Are you saying ridgefield will uniquely fail? If so, why? What quality about ridgefield makes it destined to fail, where others have succeeded. As far as you being a recent grad, ill grant that you may know more about the day to day activities than me. But this program was supported and proposed by current students who perhaps then know more than either of us? Or certianly should be taken as seriously as you expect by mentioning your qualifications. Sure things can be faked...people will outsmart system...but are these kids incapable of faking excuses now in a closed campus? I dont get the point. Kids fake things. The open campus doesnt change fake excuses does it?
TheNorm June 20, 2012 at 02:31 PM
"Are you saying ridgefield will uniquely fail? If so, why? What quality about ridgefield makes it destined to fail, where others have succeeded. " According to our own the state government, Ridgefield has reported a higher incidence of substance issues than other DRG-A towns. So yes, if there is any one town that should not have open campus, it's us.
sebastian dangerfield June 20, 2012 at 05:23 PM
"our own state government." Can you elaborate. But, again, if kids are doing drugs in school--and you are allowing them to leave during 2 free periods, I dont understand why you are saying that this program is ill advised. Are you saying we should keep it the way it is, because its not working as well as other school districts?

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