BHS Student Union advocates for open campus


Church Street, where many seniors go during their free blocks. Photo: Rebecca Cunningham

Rebecca Cunningham, Staff Writer

On December 13, Thomas Lyons ‘23 hung up posters for the Student Union, a club he started this year to address the needs of his classmates. Among three goals his flyer listed, one said, “To make it possible for Juniors to leave campus.” Over the past few months, this idea has circulated frequently among students.

“I always feel better after taking a walk,” Ella Ambroggio ‘22 said. “I can see kids abusing the privilege, but I also support an open campus for everyone.”

BHS reserves the privilege of an open campus for seniors. This means that seniors can leave the building during free blocks, but freshmen, sophomores and juniors must remain at school.

“The belief behind it is that seniors are presumably more mature, accountable and responsible,” Vice-Principal Francesca Dupuis said. “And they may have more flexible schedules.”

According to Dupuis, this practice is a long-standing tradition and common across Vermont and the country. However, many BHS students are beginning to question it now that they attend school in a former department store. DtBHS lacks windows and therefore natural light and fresh air.

You spend the whole day locked up. It’s caging not to see any sky but just walls everywhere.

— Cannon Poulin ‘23

“You spend the whole day locked up,” Cannon Poulin ‘23 said. “It’s caging not to see any sky but just walls everywhere.”

Elsa Sanborn ‘24 devotes much of her free time to running and skiing outdoors. She agreed with Poulin. 

“You know when you’re reading, and you’re tired, and your brain hurts, and you have no idea what you’re reading?” Sanborn said. “I feel like that after school.”

Lyons presented a second argument. He worries about the transmission of Covid-19 in DtBHS and believes opening the campus to Juniors will mitigate crowded spaces.

“The building is too small for the number of students we have,” Lyons said. “When there is stress that health is at risk, that impacts learning.”

Dupuis also pointed to safety as a priority of the district. But she said that limiting the number of people coming and going decreases the chance of an accident during school hours.

“While it seems harmless to run up the street to go to Subway, in the worst-case scenario, what if a student got hit by a car,” Dupuis said. “We are liable.”

Currently, the district employs a parent volunteer to wait at the door and check the age of every student as they pass by. But many students, including lower classmen, come and go unnoticed.

Because of this problem, Dupuis considered asking individual families to give their children permission to leave, but she decided against it.

Seniors Jason Huynh, Kelemua Summa, Collin Chutter-Cressy and Liam Jolly enjoy their lunch at the Burlington Bagel Place. Photo: Rebecca Cunningham

 “That would be a hard list to manage with the eb and flow of traffic,” Dupuis said. “I would anticipate opening a can of worms.”

Lyons values independence and feels discredited as a Junior.

“Juniors already have jobs and responsibilities with families,” Lyons said. “One of the important parts about growing up is learning responsibility.”

Over the next month, the Student Union will continue to gather information and support before they speak with administrators about the open campus policy.

Dupuis expressed willingness to have a real conversation in the future. 

“Our traditions can change,” Dupuis said. “Especially if students want to be at the table.”