The overwhelming opinion, especially from students, is to keep the Mingus Union High School campus open, as it has always been.
Only one person spoke in favor of keeping the students on campus from the beginning of classes to the end of the day, including the lunch period, at a Jan. 16 public hearing.
The Open/Closed Campus Committee conducted the public hearing to get further opinions from the public in their attempt to come up with a recommendation for the governing board. The five-member governing board will make the final decision.
About 40 people attended the meeting — parents, teachers, students and members of the public — with about 18 people speaking, mostly students who want the campus to remain open.
An online poll and a telephone poll ended in the majority of people in favor of an open campus so students can go to local restaurants for lunch.
“We were formed to make a recommendation to the board. We decided to focus only on safety of the students,” said Mark Miskiel, host of the hearing.
The committee also looked at what it would cost, what other campuses in the state are doing and at the idea of bringing food vendors to campus, he said.
Speakers addressed four questions, which included whether they preferred the campus be closed or stay open, if the campus stays open what ideas they had to improve the safety and closed or open, how could the campus be made more attractive for students at lunch?
The committee will make their recommendation to MUHS District Superintendent Scott Dunsmore, who will in turn make a recommendation to the governing board at the board’s Thursday, Jan. 24, meeting. The board is expected to make a decision at that meeting.
Nicole Powers, a senior at Mingus, said she would not like to see the campus close.
“It’s a big amount of freedom they look forward to. Parents and kids have to be aware of their own safety,” Powers said.
To attract students to campus, Powers said more places to eat, more food and healthier food are needed.
“More choices will make it more comfortable for students to be here,” she said.
Physical education teacher Susan Holm said she thinks closing the campus would cause equally as many other problems.
“It’s like putting the cart before the horse. There’s too much gray area. Where will we put students? What schedule changes would need done,” Holm asked.
She said, as a parent, she has never been afraid for their safety.
Paula Blankenship and her son Kevin both favor limiting students to walking if they want to go off campus. It would reduce the safety risk and still give some freedom, Kevin said.
“If you make it a closed campus, it would be as much a safety hazard because of fights,” he said. He told the committee he has witnessed fights on campus.
“I’m afraid you cannot guaranteed the safety of 1,000 students. If you have more parent volunteers, you’ll have more success,” Paula Blankenship said, volunteering herself to help.
To keep students on campus voluntarily, she said the school needs more ramadas, more shade and areas for students to relax outside.
As the parent of two Mingus students, Audrey Islas said she is not more concerned about her children’s safety than if they were going to school or out on a date.
As a teacher, Islas said it would be impossible to put 1,200, 600 or 400 students in the cafeteria for lunch, and that closing the campus would cause changes in the academic schedule.
“I’m seeing grade declines. It would cause the need for more control and more supervision,” Islas said.
Laura Sperry said she thinks the students will go off campus anyway.
“As far as safety, that’s an issue either on or off campus. If I don’t want my child going off campus, I don’t give them the keys,” Sperry said.
Sperry’s daughter, Carolyn, said that safety needs to be with the student.
“Safety of the student comes from within the student. Students need to be responsible for themselves on or off campus. If we’re all stuck in here we’re not going to be happy,” Carolyn Sperry said.
Several other students who spoke agreed with her that each student should be responsible for his or her own safety and behavior.
Sophomore Lesley Kincaid said students have abided by other rules, such as no phones in the classroom, not talking to each other during class and having to ask to go to the bathroom.
“We’ve obeyed those rules. Don’t take away our small amount of freedom we do have,” Kincaid said.
Chelsey Shadrach, a senior, likened the ability to go off campus during lunch to people taking a lunch break from the job to get away and get refreshed.
Another student, Madison Crnkovich, said having separate lunch periods would cause a lot more ditching.
“I’d resort to ditching to be with my friends,” she said and quickly added that she would never ditch a class.
The lone person in favor of closing the Mingus campus related her experience of high school at a closed campus.
“We were more focused on our studies. We had activities and we didn’t have a problem,” Julie Dodge said.
She said the issue went deeper than the safety of students on the street, it was about unauthorized people being able to come on to the campus.
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