WW-P board toasts proposal for senior off-campus lunches

Proposal pushed by students, high school administrators and the superintendent.

By: Gwen Runkle
   A majority of the West Windsor-Plainsboro Regional Board of Education members reacted favorably to a proposal to allow high school seniors to travel off school grounds for lunch starting next fall, after hearing little public opposition Tuesday night.
   Only one parent, Susan Richards of West Windsor, spoke out against entering into such a pilot program.
   "There are other, safer ways to teach students responsibility," she said. "This is an accident waiting to happen and for what, a slice of pizza?"
   And while some school board members, including Linda Geevers and Henry Wieck, also questioned the measure’s safety, only one board member — Dee Dee Dodson — came out in direct opposition to the open-campus lunch proposal.
   "I really don’t see a need for it," she said.
   But several students and high school administrators along with Superintendent John Fitzsimons backed the measure.
   "This is not only a great opportunity for us to eat what we want and have some time to ourselves during the day," said Ian MacQueen, student council president at High School South. "It is also an opportunity to instill us with a sense of responsibility."
   He said many seniors feel they do not have any more privileges socially or academically than they did as freshmen and stressed the open-campus atmosphere would help students prepare to move from high school to college.
   Dr. Fitzsimons said the measure would help students learn the "valuable life experience of time management" and Charles Rudnick, the assistant principal at High School South, and Michael Zapicchi, principal at High School North, stressed that the proposal’s guidelines and restrictions would ensure the measure is both safe and enforceable.
   According to the proposal, which was developed by the student councils of the two high schools, seniors would have to maintain a 2.0 or better unweighted grade point average and have no disciplinary or attendance problems in order to qualify for the open-campus privilege.
   To participate, seniors would have to get permission slips signed by a parent or guardian.
   Approved students would also have a symbol embossed on the corner of their student identification card, which must be carried at all times and would be randomly checked by security aides.
   Tardiness, cutting class or breaking any school or local laws would immediately result in the loss of the open-campus privilege.
   If an unapproved student leaves school, a series of penalties would take effect. First offense would bring one Saturday suspension. Second offense would bring two days’ out-of-school suspension and third offense would be referred to an assistant principal.
   If an approved student leaves school without the proper identification, he or she would have to serve one Saturday suspension as well.
   Board member Stan Katz was particularly impressed by the strictness of the proposal’s penalties and said once the school board gets a positive nod from the district’s legal representatives, he plans to support it May 28, when the board is expected to vote.
   Board members Michelle Epstein, Pat Bocarsly and Diane Hasling also voiced support for the measure, pending an opinion on the legality of the proposal.
   In other business, the school board unanimously passed a resolution allowing current fourth-grade students to stay at the Upper Elementary School in Plainsboro, soon to be known as the Millstone River School, for fifth grade in September instead of having to move to the Village School in West Windsor, as called for under the recently approved elementary redistricting plan.
   The resolution stated such exemptions could be made until May 31 and omitted funding transportation for the grandfathered students.
   So far, about 46 families have indicated they would like students to stay at the Upper Elementary School for fifth grade, according to Jon Cosse, director of pupil personnel services.