Pro/Con: Are the new lunchtime policies effective?

Oct. 8, 2009, midnight | By Jess Miller Vicky Lai | 12 years, 7 months ago

In May of last year, the school administration implemented a new lunchtime policy that restricted students to the Student Activity Center, courtyards and Blair Boulevard up to the media center during 5A and 5B lunches. Students can only go to other locations in the school if they have a pass signed by a teacher or administrator that they can show to members of the security staff.

Vicky Lai says yes: New lunch policies protect and improve the school learning environment.

Think back to elementary school, when everyone ate their lunches in the cafeteria. It was an effective system then, and it can still work now.

Yes, we may have lost the ability to roam during lunch, but we have gained a cleaner school in return. Yes, the policy may restrict student freedom, but safety and learning should come before student preferences.

Not all students like the policy, but admit it: Many students like the idea of fewer rodents and roaches scuttling around the school. Because of reduced trash, building services manager Yakubu Agbonselobho has received no complaints this year about the possibly disease-infested mice that were quite common last year. By limiting students to eating in the SAC, building services is able to do a better job of concentrated cleaning and maintaining trash-free places around the school.

Let's look at two options. One, we eat all over a school filled with rotting food and hungry bugs that make us lose our appetites. Two, we eat in the SAC and no longer see as many live or trampled insects in the hallways on our way to class. The bugs might like option one, but most humans would probably go with option two.

In addition to a happier building services crew, security has an easier duty of facilitating student safety. Security team leader Cedric Boatman said that the new policy does take enforcement but less so than before, since security can focus on one area of the school. With fewer security guards scattered around the school to monitor wandering students, security can do a better job of keeping everyone safe in one location.

Though some students may not like the policy, the lunch experience has not changed. Students can still get to where they need to go if they're supposed to be there. For example, the security guard on duty on Blair Boulevard will let students through if they need to go to the media center, counseling office or Career Center.

In terms of academic help, however, security has become more stringent. While the signed pass requirement inconveniences students, Boatman said that the administration is currently working on modifying the policy to make it easier for students to get help.

The new lunchtime policy also saves students from the irritating interruptions and distractions of their peers at lunch who choose to run through the hallways screaming or cursing instead of eating. Now that fewer students walk the halls, the students in class are spared the inconveniences of loud kids outside.

The administration's goal was never to limit students' freedom. In fact, Boatman said that the administration made the change because students don't need the extra space. When he himself was a student at the old Blair building, all 2,500 students ate in the cafeteria.

At the new Blair, students were not limited to the SAC before because the school building was over capacity at 3,200 students. Now that enrollment has decreased and Blair is no longer over capacity, the administration and staff felt that a return to students eating only in the cafeteria would be possible and more appropriate.

No policy is perfect, though - the administration is willing to make adjustments. Smaller barriers like those used in airports complete with a security guard have replaced the yellow gate that blocked access across Blair Boulevard last year.

The administration still needs to make it easier for students to get academic help. One option is the use of long-term passes, where teachers indicate that students have their permission to see them for an entire semester, so students don't need to ask for a pass each time they need help.

The new lunchtime policy will take some time to get used to, but so far it is working without serious glitches. Now, students can go take their seats in the SAC and enjoy the company of friends rather than rats.

Jess Miller says no: Restricting access to teachers is detrimental to academic success.

Blazers have often remarked that Blair's exterior looks like a penitentiary. Now, we seem to be proving that assertion in the interior. After all, the new barricades and tape that line Blair Boulevard make Blair appear more like a prison than a school.

When Principal Darryl Williams implemented the policy at the end of last school year, his goal was to limit trash in the hallways and prevent noise near classrooms. But in attempting to keep the school clean and orderly, the administration's new lunch policy has gone so far as to run counter to student achievement. For example, one of the policy changes requires students to show signed passes to security guards in order to move from one hallway to the next outside of the Student Activity Center, courtyards, or permitted areas of Blair Boulevard.

Though obtaining a signed pass to see a teacher at lunch seems like a simple task, there are scenarios in which a student would not be able to do so. If students come into school late and can't get passes from their teacher before fifth period, they will be deprived of academic help. In many cases, students will suddenly come up with a question while studying or completing an assignment at home. If students have no contact with teachers because of the schedule for the day, they will not have the opportunity to ask for a pass.

An easy suggestion is that the students go right after the bell rings to see the teacher during the passing period before lunch. However, some students need to purchase lunch before they can head to the classroom - and on top of that, with Blair's policy on food in the classroom, it can be difficult to find a teacher who will let a student eat while attending academic support.

This sort of academic support policy is disconcerting to students looking for help, especially when the administration introduced the policy during the critical week before final exams. The well-intentioned policy ended up taking away the opportunity for students to confer with their teachers and receive useful study pointers and information.

Student success and high academic achievement should be and are often described as the school's number one priority - this policy does not reflect that goal. The policy punishes Blazers who want to use their lunchtime, or part of their lunchtime, for productive purposes, and it is inexcusable to place cleanliness over academic success.

As a Blair teacher who highly encourages academic support, geometry teacher Karen Brandt keeps both lunches free every day so she can be available for the 20 or so kids who need help during each lunch. Brandt has always encouraged students to ask questions or retake a quiz during their lunch periods. Brandt's policy illustrates how students learn to depend on their teachers and use their time not only to grasp concepts but also to build positive relationships.

Granted, Blazers are able to comply with the administration's new policy, but it poses a great inconvenience to the many students who decide to retake an important quiz and cannot get a pass beforehand.

In short, students should not be restricted from getting academic support at any time. The more bureaucratic red tape the administration puts up, the more students will be discouraged from getting help.

Although the policy may have sounded good in theory, the consequences have been sub-par. Limiting access to teachers and academic resources is not an effective way to achieve the respect that is so important to student-administration relationships. If the administration wants to be respected, it should think through its priorities and consider revising an inconvenient, detrimental policy that restricts student access to teachers and important resources.

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Jess Miller. Jess is a page editor for Silver Chips Print. She is a CAP junior who aspires to one day become a Nationals wife. More »

Vicky Lai. More »

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