Unresolved question if Bijou moves into Pike building: the off-campus smoking location

       If the Bijou School winds up moving to the current Pike Elementary building, as proposed, Principal Wayne Hutchison has said he hopes to win over the neigborhood through communication, volunteer activities and even invitations to the alternative high school's traditional “luau” cookouts. Students smoking cigarettes in the alley behind the Bijou
School (right) at 730 N. Walnut St., is a “tradition,”
according to Principal Wayne Hutchison. What hasn’t been discussed at any of the public meetings so far is where the students can go to smoke off-campus if Bijou 
moves into Pike Elementary School, as proposed.
Westside Pioneer photo
       District 11 officials have also expressed hope the relocation will be beneficial to the neighborhood. It would be a step up for the school, now situated in a poorly ventilated building (the one-time gymnasium/ kindergarten space at the former Bristol School) and four 30-year-old portables.
       However, the move has a potential image problem for which neither the school's principal nor the district has an immediate answer. And that is the students' propensity for smoking. At various break times during the Bijou school day, 20 or more students migrate to the alley behind the school at 730 N. Walnut St. and light up cigarettes.
       Smoking on school property has been disallowed in District 11 for about 20 years, but “you can't stop it” if students go onto public property (such as an alley or a park) to smoke, according to Elaine Naleski, District 11 spokesperson.
       Asked about the matter, Hutchison said he is considering taking curtailment steps. “I have thought a lot about it,” he said. “It might be the appropriate time to move away from that.”
       One of the differences between the two schools is that the alley behind Bijou is tree-shaded and somewhat secluded. Also, “the neighbors here are used to it; it's traditional,” he said.
       On the other hand, the area around Pike is more open, he pointed out. Also, some opposition to Bijou already exists there - a number of neighbors have made comments at recent closure-related meetings, claiming that an alternative high school would be detrimental to the neighborhood.
       A few student smokers who were approached in the alley this week said they were unaware of the possible future relocation, but expressed hope that a suitable smoking spot could be found at the new school - along with a delight at the prospect of getting a less ancient school facility in general.
       Hutchison knows that ending off-campus smoking altogether will not be easy to do. “It's one of the battles we'll fight within our own community,” he said.

Westside Pioneer article