Several new rules have been instituted at Morro Bay High School for the 2019/2020 school year, promising new parking arrangements, restrictions on where bikes, skateboards, and scooters can be ridden, and stricter enforcement of attendance.
On parking, Vice Principal Ms. Contreras brought up changes that included students having to park in Entrance One rather than Entrance Two, which she thought was going “pretty well.” Along with this rule, students had to obtain a parking permit at the beginning of the year. Furthermore, the drop-off zone at Entrance One has undergone some differences with the addition of a roundabout which serves to streamline the process of entering and exiting the school.
For students who do not get to school by car, a new rule prohibits the use of scooters, skateboards, and bikes on campus. Instead, Ms. Contreras says, students must walk their vehicles until they get to the sidewalks leaving Entrance One. The reasoning for this change. Ms. Contreras says, is that “something could happen” and that “when you’re walking your bike you can stop faster” to avoid getting in an accident.
New attendance rules, which are part of a district-wide movement to address “chronic absenteeism,” which is described as students “missing ten percent or more days,” Ms. Contreras says. With MBHS being an open campus, most students are allowed to leave for both lunch and nutrition. As a result, Ms. Contreras said, “some students…cut or they are just tardy.” Students who are chronically absent, she says, are “missing out on key instruction” and are a concern because, as Ms. Contreras says, “where are you and who are you with? And do your parents know?”
“Last year,” Contreras continued, “we had almost 8,000 tardies.” To respond to this issue, teachers were asked to become more familiar with why their students may tardy. In theory, these conversations should help determine which students are tardy because of factors beyond control, including having parents who cannot get their child to school on time. If that is the case, Contreras said, “we’ll work with you on that.”
In many cases, however, tardies will be enforced. Outlined on page 13 of the student handbook, punishments range from lunch detention, campus beautification, or parent contact to a consequence assigned by the administration depending on how many tardies a student receives during a semester. Discipline begins once a student receives five tardies “in all classes.” Ms. Contreras was clear, however, that “the intention is not to be punitive…I don’t want to [be like] ‘I’m gonna get you.’ The intention is that we are training you up for life after high school.”
Attendance is an issue that is being tackled by schools across the district. It is tied to the California Data Dashboard, which is a tool for schools and districts that evaluates a variety of factors that impact school culture as well as student readiness and improvements and which helps schools to set goals for the future.
This year, the dress code remains unchanged, but Ms. Contreras reiterated that the school is working to determine “what’s a little, and what’s like, ‘woah too much.’” If the issue is habitual, Ms. Contreras said, parents might be contacted. The purpose behind the dress code (which Contreras was careful to reiterate was not tied to gender) is to ensure that students are dressing in a professional manner: “[students] are showing up, this is [their] job,” she said. But, she conceded, “there is also the freedom of speech, so you have to balance it all.” She continued, “we want to be fair and be aware and be sensitive” when deciding what is appropriate.