Greenville High School to close campus at lunchtime

By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 1:00 pm on Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Students from Greenville High School eat at Mr. T’s during their lunch period. Mr. T’s gets about 45 to 50 students per day. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

GREENVILLE — There have been many changes made to Greenville Public Schools during the 2012-2013 school year, from a new athletic facility to parking lot changes.

Along with those changes came an upgrade to the high school cafeteria, including a new student-picked design, a commons area and new food choices.

Because of the changes, the Greenville High School campus is now closed during lunch.

Greenville High School freshman Amber Johnson, 14, right, stands with her friends as they purchase food from Mr. T’s. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

“The concept of a closed campus has been a vision that was, until this construction project, not feasible,” Superintendent Pete Haines said. “For many years, we have had concerns over the dangers related to an open campus.”

Throughout the years, Greenville High School has received complaints from neighbors about students at lunch time along with concerns from the school about student safety as young drivers. Another problem has been students littering not only Greenville’s campus, but that of surrounding areas.

“It’s unfortunate that the behavior of a few have made management of an open campus nearly impossible,” Haines said.

Assistant Principal Todd Oatley said over the years, the main challenge of closing campus was trying to seat nearly 600 students at one time — two times a day. Last year, the school tried three lunches — seating 400 students at a time. However, the idea was not academically sound.

“We knew that with the new expansion of the cafeteria and the addition of the newly constructed student commons, we could handle going back to two lunches and seat everyone,” Oatley said.

Linda Thompson, co-owner of Mr. T’s on the corner of Washington and Hillcrest streets, said although the decision of the school to close its campus was a shock, the decision will affect the business slightly, but it is still something they can handle.

“We will just have adjust as we have done in the past,” said Thompson, who has owned the business for 23 years.

During the beginning of the school year is when Thompson said she sees the most students — between 45 and 50 students a day.

Nearby Dairy Queen co-owner Bill Phillips said there is not a lot that can be done about the school closing its campus.

“It will be interesting to see what happens,” said Phillips, adding he won’t know how the closed-campus lunches will affect his business until it happens.

Oatley said Greenville High School’s closed-campus lunch is scheduled to begin at the end of this week.

Items considered by Greenville Public Schools staff for closed campus:

• Community members who live near the high school had to deal with smokers and littering.

• Tardies coming back after lunch were higher than any other hour, thus interfering with academic success.

• Students using illegal drugs, alcohol and tobacco were statistically higher during lunch time.

• In the last three years, there has been an higher rate of more serious car accidents involving high school drivers.

• Only about 12 to 15 percent of students leave campus each day.

• School officials have made a serious effort to create some “cool” spaces using comfortable seating with plans to add entertainment.

Source: Assistant Principal Todd Oatley

Jeramie Croad, 15, a junior at Greenville High School, frequented Mr. T’s during the last few days of open campus at the high school. — Daily News/Kelli Ameling

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