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Change Coming? OHS Considers Closed Campus
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A discussion on closing the Oakdale High School campus for lunchtime was on the agenda at the Jan. 11 regular meeting of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees.

Board president Mike Tozzi spoke of his personal experiences of driving down F Street during the high school’s lunchtime. He said that numerous students were jaywalking and he also brought up another student behavior called “training.” Training is where a group of students will wait until a group of students ahead of them crosses the street and when they’re almost to the other side, the next group will then start to cross the street themselves. He said that some students are amused by holding up traffic, but it’s dangerous, and motorists lose their tempers.

Tozzi acknowledged the financial stake of retailers that receive a significant amount of lunchtime sales from students, but he worried of potential tragedy.

Student board member Michael Homer said he brought up the issue in his leadership class and said that students don’t like the idea of a closed campus. He admitted that high school students have a sense of invincibility. He said that the message should be sent that it is a privilege to have an open campus.

With some further discussion amongst the board members, the comment was made that OHS may be the only high school in the county with an open campus. Board members stated that all Modesto City Schools have closed campuses.

Trustee Mike House wondered of the logistics of getting food on campus, noting the issue of food service to that number of students in a certain amount of time and space on campus.

OHS Principal Mike Moore said that the high school has used announcements and other ways of communicating to students that this type of lunchtime behavior is inappropriate, but he said that unless the Oakdale Police Department cites the students, the school’s hands are tied.

District Superintendent Fred Rich read from school district policy that states that it is a privilege to have an open campus and that the privilege may be revoked for certain students for disciplinary action. He said that this policy can be invoked to address the problem.

It was noted that it may be a few students causing a big problem, but the matter will be further reviewed by district staff and the board.

In other business, the 2008-09 annual audit report was provided by Bill Williams, a representative from the district’s auditing firm. District Assistant Superintendent for Business Tim Hern said that the district had an outstanding audit this year. Williams said that there were no reporting errors and no findings, and that is a very rare circumstance. He added that the district’s reserves are just under 10 percent and that is “a great place to be” and is not excessive. He strongly recommended that the reserves be as high as possible and that there are no concerns with OJUSD regarding cash. He reiterated that the district is “in a really good place” financially.

Also in other business, Superintendent Rich reported on the status of Oakdale Charter School, which was spurred by recent articles about charter schools in an area daily newspaper.

“Our charter school has been a friendly charter for a number of years,” Rich said, adding that many charters spring up because parents are unhappy with the education their children receive.

Also, Rich stated that he believes that Oakdale doesn’t have a lot of charter schools popping up because it’s the school district’s responsibility to ensure that the schools achieve high scores and provide a good experience for students and meet the students’ needs. Rich added, however, that there may be more charter schools that open in Oakdale in the future.

He said that a charter school can be a good option when a traditional high school isn’t a good fit and continuation school isn’t right for a student. The teachers at Oakdale’s charter school are regular, credentialed high school teachers.

Oakdale’s charter high school is an independent-study style charter school. Alternative education Principal Mike Riley said that unlike continuation school, a student that attends charter school can go directly to a two-year or four-year college after graduation. Oakdale Charter high school students must pass the same STAR tests and high school exit exams that traditional high school students must pass.

Riley emphasized that parents who send their children to charter school are not always disgruntled parents, they often just want an alternative for a variety of different reasons. He added that Oakdale Charter School usually has eight to 10 students on a waiting list, but right now actually has an opening. He also said that they can take students from any county that borders Stanislaus County.

A board budget workshop will take place at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 25 at the OJUSD Technology and Staff Development Center, adjacent to the OHS campus.

The next regular meeting of the OJUSD Board of Trustees will be at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Feb. 8 in the Oakdale City Council Chambers, 277 No. Second.