What’s Happening With Off-Campus Privileges?


Claudia Miller, Editor

Sonoma Academy seniors have been given the privilege to go off campus for lunch and their free period throughout the school day for years prior to COVID. The juniors have been able to apply for the privilege by writing a letter of intent stating why they want the privilege and how they will live up to the expectations required by the administration to uphold the honor code and adhere to all school rules. Then, the whole class would sign that letter and the administration determined whether or not to grant them off-campus privileges. The original purpose of leaving for lunch was because SA did not have a lunch service.

Ever since returning to campus after distance learning, the upperclassmen have not been able to go off campus. Dean of Student Life Darren Duarte stated, “We had this COVID pause to rethink a lot of things, and we are also rethinking off-campus privileges. Why do we have them? What value do they add? And we are also in conversation with student leadership.”

One of the reasons the school was hesitant to allow off-campus privileges has been liability, since the school is technically responsible for students throughout the school day. Duarte said, “We are charged with keeping you all safe throughout your day here. Students leaving in the middle of the day and driving their cars is a time constraint, and we often get complaints from people in the neighborhood of people driving too fast.”

Duarte also brought up the importance of community now that we can finally be back together, and how it is important that we have upperclassmen demonstrating the school’s culture during lunch. In addition, in past years there has been a small population of students who go into the neighborhood near SA and do things against the honor code.

Students used to be able to go off campus every day of the week. This caused large portions of students to go off-campus and arrive late to Community Meetings with their food, disrupting and missing senior speeches and leaving their lunch trash behind in the gym.

After many meetings, SLC and the SA administration have come up with new proposals for allowing off-campus privileges. The proposed new policy is that seniors will be allowed to go off campus on Tuesdays and Thursdays only during their lunch period. Under this plan, seniors would not be able to leave campus during their free period because students may attempt to move their free periods to GH or EF to get an extended lunch.

Only being able to leave campus Tuesdays and Thursdays would prevent the interruption of Community Meetings and keep the SA community together during lunch. It has also been brought up that there is an equity issue, since not all students can go off campus several days of the week and buy additional food.

Juniors do not have off-campus privileges as of now but may get them after spring break. It is important to SA that the upperclassmen are on campus at lunch to set an example for younger students and keep the SA culture alive. Junior Nico Scarpulla said he disagrees with this policy of not letting juniors off campus for lunch. He feels it is not about COVID protocols, but rather reflects a lack of trust towards juniors from the administration. Other juniors feel the same way. Amadea Resch, another junior, doesn’t care because the food on campus is so good but she finds it frustrating that her class needs to prove themselves to be trustworthy of being able to go off campus.

Before the seniors get off-campus privileges SLC is working with other schools to learn what their off-campus rules are. They are also editing the off-campus contract that the whole senior class will sign.