An Open Campus: Why Hall Needs One

The convenience of Bishops Corner (Jonathan Pincus)

The Hall community is a closed campus. As long as I have gone here, and for decades before me, students have been forced to deal with the closed campus despite free periods, lunches, and other sources of free time. This status quo is a problem for Hall students and the relationship between students and faculty. 

Not only do open campuses provide many direct benefits to the mental and physical health of students, but it is also a demonstration of trust that will help to create a stronger community. 

 I have noticed that the town of West Hartford, as well as our nation as a whole, has schools always trying to solve the problem of students’ lack of physical activity and unhealthiness. This is done with the “balanced” lunch they offer at school, as well as offering Wellness classes in school. 

But besides walking around the track for 15 minutes at the beginning of a Wellness class, a student might not get any more physical activity for the day. This isn’t necessarily because students are lazy, but because we do not have enough time. Having 47 minutes in the middle of the day to go off campus would have some serious health benefits for students. 

It allows students who may not have time after school to go to the gym and get their workout in. There are plenty of gyms within 5-10 minutes of the Hall including the JCC, which is a simple 5-minute drive down the road, or Anytime Fitness in Bishops Corner which is a 5-10 minute walk. Not to mention both of these gyms have showers in case you feel too sweaty after you work out. 

Students wouldn’t need to go to the gym during this time to get physical activity, they could also go for a walk or jog to the center or simply just around the block and enjoy time for exploration and fresh air. Not only will these activities help students physically, but it is also a good mental break in a student’s day, and everyone knows that, when you get any amount of physical activity done, you just feel more awake and refreshed than before.

Having an open campus can also help students academically. More often than not, students will go to the library to study for a test or try and get some work done, but there is almost always one group there being loud enough for everyone to hear. And for most students, this can be really distracting and make it hard for them to concentrate. To make the situation worse, students used to be able to go into the hallways to study if the library was too loud; but now that freedom has even been taken away. 

If Hall were to become an open campus, students could go home during their free period.  In this familiar and quiet space, they could get work done or study. It would be very helpful to go home to one’s own space where a student has the tools they need to study if they have a test later in the school day.

In a study by Catherine E. Rosen, schools that have an open campus allowed for students to perform to their fullest, while still having time to do other activities. One major problem with this generation is the constant need to perform to one’s fullest and exceed the expectations of everyone. But this constant need for perfection leads to a great amount of pressure on students which has a negative impact on students. 

An open campus can free up someone’s day just enough to lower that pressure so that they can function to their best ability without feeling overwhelmed. This is extra time being used to get work done, consequently opening up one’s day for a job later in the day, a time to help their family, a time to pursue a hobby, or even extra time for a student to rest. These extra hours in someone’s day may not seem like a lot, but, in reality, this hour could be the perfect amount of time that stops a student from being pushed over the edge by the immense feeling of being overwhelmed.

Hall always stresses wanting to prepare students for life beyond high school and how students need to gain responsibility. By making Hall High School an open campus, students are allowed to learn those skills and practice them. They learn to work around time constraints, like needing to be back in time for classes. 

Opening the campus prepares students for the real world, for life in a world without the rules of the school. While still providing some constructive guidelines, kids at Hall will be transitioned into a world with fewer rules. 

In college, or whatever comes next for students, they will be given freedom both in and out of school. Instead of leaving us vulnerable and without the life skills needed for the world, the school could create an open campus where we have the ability to learn.

Another valuable lesson students could learn from an open campus is that of good judgment and time management. If someone is waiting in line at a store in Bishops Corner and has a class that starts in 20 minutes back at Hall, they need to have the judgment to know when they need to leave to get back to school in time for class. 

The self-awareness needed to give up on your food to get back in time for class is so important and connected to life outside of school. If students aren’t able to learn here, they will never have the opportunity to while also in an environment with guide rails.  

I’ve heard it argued that it isn’t safe to have an open campus and that it would allow drugs and other dangerous substances into the school. However, as we can see, these dangerous substances can already be brought into the school during the morning. 

Another argument the administration has made is that students wouldn’t return to school in time for their next class. Yet this still happens all the time even with a closed campus. And what is the difference between a student coming in during the second period, and a student coming back to school during the third period? What needs to happen is that the school needs to trust its students.

Obviously, there would need to be rules, ways to enforce the rules, and good reasons behind those rules. I am not advocating for throwing open the doors and letting students come and go as they please, but Hall should allow for more freedom for its students. 

An open campus is certainly the best fit for Hall High School because of the countless benefits it provides for students. Developing students’ skills of independence, responsibility, and decision-making prepares us for everyday problems we would encounter later on in life (and not just in an academic environment). 

Open campus allows us to explore who we are, develop social skills and gives us charge of our own lives and decisions. It not only helps us in an educational sense but also helps both our mental and physical states by allowing us to deal with stress in our own ways. An open campus is a perfect way to prepare us students for the real world and show trust in us as students.