New school year, updated policies

What the 2019-2020 Student Handbook means for Falcons


Laurence Walker

Junior Caleb Stevens poses with the new Student Handbook in the newly renovated halls of West’s second floor.

Laurence Walker , print editor

The 2019-2020 school year will be another year of change. This will be Principal Cory Williams’ second year at West and there is an entirely new superintendent. Last year, the new administration introduced the lockout system and rid West of the strict backpack rules, among other things. This year, staff worked to release an updated student handbook to better represent the new administration. Associate Principal Charles Driscoll was the main writer/editor of the new handbook.

“We didn’t have one last year, we were a whole new administration. We inherited all the procedures, policies, and the handbook,” Driscoll said. “I used the ’17-’18 handbook as the basis for this year’s handbook.”

The new handbook has been updated to include new verbiage, with only one entirely new policy listed. The changes to the student handbook are primarily focused on enforcement of already established policy.

“We don’t want to add policies or rules, we want to maintain and enforce the procedures we have in place to ensure that students are successful,” Driscoll said.

The lockout system was introduced last year to keep students in school, locking them out of being marked present in a class if they were not present last block. The only brand new policy in the handbook, the lockout system, is something students like Junior Caleb Stevens are getting used to.

“Students should leave the building if they need it (and) if it’s an emergency, but I can see why you can’t just come back in,” Stevens said. “You should have a parent to call you out before you leave.”

The handbook has a revised section on vaping at school, with the addition of the term “Nicotine Delivery Systems” in references to products like JUULs. This new term comes from the administration’s desire to keep up to date, citing terms like “e-cigarette” as outdated.

“If we’re not specific enough and constantly changing it’s going to be tough to mandate all this stuff,” Principal Cory Williams said.

West’s administration plans to take student vaping seriously this year. It’s a new issue, students having nicotine systems that can hide in their hands. Modern technology is much more conspicuous than a student bringing a pack of cigarettes and lighter.

“If we see a student vaping, we will search them. If they have a vape pen on them they have possession, we saw them using it,” Driscoll said. “There are serious consequences to that.”

The new Student Handbook now refers to hallways as strict “No Standing Zones”. Driscoll added this term in response to the large groups of students that tend to bunch up and disrupt the flow of hallway traffic.

“We just need to have kids keep moving. When kids stand in the halls it creates blockages and other kids aren’t able to make it to class on time,” Driscoll said. “It’s new verbiage, I hope it catches on. I’ve told all the security we have got to keep the students moving.” 

This new policy is likely to stir up some students. Not just those that stand is big groups, but those that like a quick conversation with their friend before class.

“I don’t like that because a student’s free time should be theirs,” Stevens said. “Like that’s passing time, you should get to your class and not be late, but you still should have some time to talk to your friends.”

The new handbook does not mention any new policy or plans for snow days, such as allocated make up days. There’s no definite answer how school days lost to another bad winter would be made up, whether it’s in days by cutting breaks, or in minutes by extending the school year.

“I’m not sure what the district has in store, right now we have no additional snow days built into our calendar,” Driscoll said. “I believe if this year, we have another bad winter, we would probably do the same thing as last year.”

The 2019-2020 student handbook has been updated for this year, but the changes only make up a small part of it. Much of this year’s handbook is the same as the 2017-2018 handbook, because they are packed with district policy which is less likely to change. Both handbooks include the same message about asbestos.

“All of our District buildings meet or exceed standards for asbestos management and are safe,” Both handbooks said. “The District is actively pursuing the removal of asbestos containing materials…”

However the asbestos situation at West is not the same as it was in 2017 and 2018. Both West and Central High School were constructed with materials including asbestos.

“There are certain older buildings in the district where we are certain asbestos exists,” Driscoll said. “The year this building was built, 1960, they were using asbestos construction materials and I believe our floor tiles and ceiling tiles had asbestos.”

Over the summer, workers renovated the second floor and removed the dormant asbestos that has been inside West. The asbestos only became dangerous when it was being removed, and the workers safely replaced building materials containing asbestos with new flooring and ceiling.

“I like it way better than last years, it looked so crappy,” Stevens said. “I’m glad there’s no longer asbestos in the walls.”

The 2019-2020 student handbook has some updated verbiage and a new policy, but this new handbook primarily establishes the new administration as one of action, not one of extreme change from a policy stance. Students interested in West’s disciplinary policies will find the new handbook to be a valuable tool.

“The new student handbook is focused on laying out district policies simply and then explaining how West’s administration plans to enforce those policies,” Williams said.