Nathan Hale, First Tulsa Public School To Have Off-Campus Lunch In 25 Years

Friday, August 30th 2019, 8:04 pm
By: Emory Bryan

A Tulsa High School is allowing students to leave campus during lunch, for the first time since TPS closed campuses 25 years ago.

Students from Nathan Hale High School can leave campus on Fridays, in what's now a test of how well the open campus concept will work. The school has two lunch periods for 1,000 students. A few drive, but most walk to nearby restaurants and food trucks.

Last Friday was the first time. Each week the school plans to re-evaluate.

"I like it because we can leave class and come out, get our energy out, go eat and whatever" said Zachary Swanson, a Junior.

Tulsa hasn't had an open campus since February, 1994, when a man shot six people at a Wendy's while students were there eating lunch. Three students were hurt, and the district immediately closed campuses.

Hale Principal Sheila Riley says teachers take attendance before and after the lunch hour, for accountability, but the change is about responsibility.

"So far it's really been successful" she said. "Keeping them locked up in a high school isn't preparing them for life after high school. We've got to work with kids to teach them these things." 

The change is part of a larger redesign of Tulsa's high schools, to find best practices that could spread to other campuses.

Andrea Castaneda, the Chief Innovation Officer for TPS, said "The thing that matters about open lunch is that it gives students a chance to have measured steps towards independence. That's been a part of high school for a long time, it's just that we want to reintroduce it into the Hale High school experience."

The school cafeteria at Hale remains open, with some students using it, but hundreds are now going off campus.