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Students protest end of open campus during exams

December 11, 2003|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Greencastle-Antrim High School students, led by two girls in the junior class, are asking the school board to deny a request by administrators to end the practice of allowing students to leave the campus after taking final exams.

A petition signed by 280 students was presented to the Greencastle-Antrim School Board last week. It was circulated by juniors Molly Craig and Katie Miller, both 16, who said the decision is being made without talking to the students who will be affected by the policy change.

There are about 875 students in the school.

Under the current policy, which has been in effect since the early 1990s, students in all four grades - freshman to senior - take final exams over three days at the end of each semester. Students usually sit through two exams each day.

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Students are allowed to leave school between exams, often to go into downtown Greencastle for snacks or to hang out, school principal Jack Appleby said.

Under the new policy, being proposed by Appleby and Schools Superintendent P. Duff Rearick, exams would be held over four normal school days and one half-day which will be used to give teachers time to enter their grades.

Allowing students to leave the campus between exams worked well when the policy was first in place, but things changed over the years, Appleby said.

Some students had discipline problems while downtown. In one instance, water balloons were being thrown and a few students had minor scrapes with the law, Appleby said.

"Behavior is deteriorating and it's gotten progressively worse over the years," he said.

The administration also is concerned about liability problems. When students are downtown, they are not on school property and not under school control. In addition, he said, some parents expect their children to be at school, not off campus, he said.

Teachers are seeing a decline in academic performance because of the off-campus policy, he said.

The federal No Child Left Behind Act also has become a factor concerning attendance. If a student has no exam on one of the three days when they are given, the student cannot be counted as being in attendance, Appleby said.

"This is a drastic change from the students' perspective," Appleby said. "They also feel that it's not right for them to lose a right because a few students don't behave."

Craig and Miller see things differently.

"We're always told that if there is something you don't like, then try to change it," Craig said. "Often times, the school board makes decisions without talking to the students, so we decided to get involved." Craig said students like the relaxed atmosphere that the open-campus policy gives them.

"It gives us a chance to clear our minds between exams," she said.

After taking tests in the morning, Craig said she likes to meet her friends for lunch. They often pick up something at Sheetz and go to the park and talk.

"We all agree that we can think better that way," she said.

"It clears my head so I can get ready for the next final," Miller said.

Miller said she and her fellow students did not like the idea of losing the policy without being consulted.

"Molly and I talked about it and decided to try to get it back," she said.

The school board is expected to act on the students' petition at its Jan. 8 meeting.

Miller said she hopes the board votes in the students' favor.

"If they don't, we don't know what we'll do," she said.

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