Opinion: 9th Grade Students Should Have Building Leave


Source: friends-select.org

This year, students do not have access to the dining hall. This is how I, along with many others, have purchased food for years, but now, 9th graders must bring in their own lunch each day. Giving 9th grade students building leave privileges would make lunch more convenient and safe.

Can 9th graders be trusted to move safely around the city? Well, we already are. One of the P.E. options this year is an activity called “City Steps,” in which students walk through the city for roughly 2 miles as their exercise. According to P.E. teacher Danielle Norris, “students will either track their route on their cell phones or take a picture at the destination predetermined by the Upper School PE teachers. The destinations are about a mile away from FSS totaling a 2-mile walk during class time.” Students are trusted to walk on the city streets with caution and care. 

I joined the City Steps group on a walk on October 9th to investigate the freedom granted to freshmen outside of the school building. We walked to the Philadelphia Tribune Building at the corner of Rodman and 16th streets, and then walked back to school. At any point on the walk, I could have stopped at a food truck, or popped into a Wawa and bought myself lunch.

An added bonus of allowing freshmen to leave the building for lunch is the safety of having fewer students around each other at any time. In addition to the safety brought by eating outside, having students leave the building will stagger the times when people are eating with their masks off. Students who bring in lunch will eat, and people who go on building leave will come back when many have finished eating. 

Traditionally, 9th graders cannot earn building leave until the second semester. It is a rite of passage which requires demonstrated growth, independence, and maturity in the upper school. The freshmen have already shown this maturity in their ability to be attentive and safe in the school building through social distancing. This behavior makes me confident that we could practice the same safety on the city streets. This year, it makes more sense to grant it to the freshman class earlier. It is proven to be safer, more convenient, and in many ways, more important than ever before.