Being at a school with an open campus is fun—but the risks outweigh the rewards. Sure, these policies might give us more food options at lunch, but there’s no guarantee we’ll make the healthiest choices or even use the time constructively. Yet nearly 1 in 3 high schools across the country allow students to leave during lunch, according to a report by the Pew Charitable Trusts. In my opinion, these schools are ignoring important drawbacks.
First, open campus policies make it harder to keep students safe. Venturing to a nearby restaurant or park means leaving the supervision of teachers and other adults. This is especially important when you think about how quickly the lunch hour flies by. A student who is in a rush to get to or from a nearby spot might take unnecessary risks in crossing busy streets. This could cause an accident and puts students and drivers in danger.
Besides keeping us protected, staying on school grounds also helps maintain the school community. If most students choose to leave during breaks, then school clubs might suffer. There are other social issues that come with allowing students to buy lunch off campus. This freedom ultimately favors wealthier students who can afford to purchase lunch elsewhere. The middle school I attended had an open campus policy, and I saw a lot of problems with it. It divided students into two groups: those who could afford to eat out and those who could not. This often left some students feeling isolated, because they couldn’t go out to eat with their friends.
I can see why schools are opting to relax the rules around leaving. But giving students this kind of responsibility could cause more problems than it solves. I think there’s a better way to give students a change of scene. There’s no reason we have to spend the lunch hour in the cafeteria. Schools could open up spaces that are usually closed off—like auditoriums, gyms, and even classrooms. Or they could invest in outdoor lawn furniture that students could lounge on. This would keep us protected while also giving us a little more space to roam. Best of all, no students would feel left behind.