Due to the pandemic and the lack of student interaction during the remote and hybrid models 2020-2021 school year, Southern Lehigh High School administration gathered with teachers over the summer to brainstorm ideas for improving the school climate. One idea was the creation of an open campus at the beginning of the school day.
Open campus takes place between 7:20 and 7:45 each morning. Students may take this free time to walk around the school with their friends, catch up on academics, or grab a cup of coffee from the Coffee House, making sure they check in with their homeroom teachers by 7:35.
The idea of open campus came up in a “Think Tank” over the summer when principal Mrs. Beth Guarriello and assistant principal Mr. Chad Kinslow met with groups of teachers interested in being part of the conversation.
“The question was, ‘How do we make this an easier transition?’” health and physical education teacher Mrs. Megan Kane said. “This [hopefully] will help the possible social and emotional part of school that the students could have lost last year.”
Because of last year’s online learning environment, many students were thrown out of the loop on a social, physical, and emotional level. The main hope for the open campus is that it will help students readjust by giving them time in the morning to connect with each other and their teachers. Administrative staff saw this as a good opportunity for not only students’ health, but for their comfort as well.
“We had to take the idea to the superintendent, and with their approval of the idea then we could move forward with other concerns,” Mr. Kinslow said.
Once the open campus idea was approved, the staff began hashing out any of the possible problems that could stem from it. Safety was always a main concern, making sure teachers, administrators, or even parents would be able to reach a student efficiently and quickly. With all of the details fleshed out, it was set in motion.
“Last year it would have not been possible, but this year as long as everyones masked it’s certainly possible and we can keep it,” Mr. Kinslow said. “People have been responsible and caring toward it.”
Many students have a positive outlook toward open campus, explaining that it is helpful for school work or just a good time to spend with their peers. All students, ranging from 9th-12th grade, seemed to collectively appreciate the time being given to them, with one minor complaint.
“I like that we get to walk around and hang out with our friends,” freshman Paige Siuta said, “but I don’t like how we don’t get to hear the morning announcements.”
Many other students agreed and hoped for a solution to the morning announcement problem.
“They aren’t loud enough and no one can really hear them in the first place,” junior Naphtali Reynolds said. “You can’t hear them with everyone walking around and talking.”
The administration took this concern to heart and came up with a solution that goes into effect with the start of the second quarter.
“There will be a shift in the homeroom time and the start of the first block,” Mr. Kinslow said. “Along with that shift, the pledge and announcements will take place in 1st block so that students do not miss important information on the announcements.”
Overall, the majority of the student body and the staff in the school seem to view open campus as a positive addition to the start of the school day. It gives students time to talk with friends, work on homework, and participate in other activities. Thus, open campus is here to stay for the foreseeable future.