Open-Campus Policy Again Under Review

School board members will review the district’s open-campus policy for high school students tonight, but district officials warn that any changes would be costly.

The open-campus policy, which allows high school students to leave for lunch, has been in effect since the Irvine Unified School District was formed in 1974. The policy has undergone periodic reviews.

“Each time, it was reaffirmed that the current policy was the most appropriate one, although some modifications have been made,” Supt. Dennis M. Smith said.

Originally, freshmen and sophomores were required to have parent permission slips. In 1987, the policy was changed to require parent permission for all high school students leaving campus during lunch or before the end of the school day. Students now carry identification cards that indicate if they have permission to be off campus during school hours.


School board member Tom Burnham said increased parent concern about the safety of students prompted him to ask for a review of the policy.

“It’s an emotional issue,” Burnham said. “Would we be fencing people in and not teaching them responsibility? Many parents are asking for more control. It’s a complex issue. There’s no easy answer.”

During a review of the policy four years ago, the cost of fencing the district’s four high schools was estimated at $575,000. To maintain a closed campus, the district also would have to hire additional personnel to monitor students and expand cafeteria services, Smith said.