The experimental lunch time period at Glen Rock Middle School has created quite a mess for students, according to an 8th-grader who pleaded with the school board to re-evaluate the trial system Monday night.
The new, experimental lunch protocol splits the 45-minute period into two 22-minute sections – a study hall and a lunch time. Each grade is separated, with one half eating first and the other studying first.
The system was implemented on a trial basis this year to limit the lunch room to no more than 100 students so as to better supervise students, who must stay inside due to ongoing construction, Interim Superintendent Ray Albano said.
But eight-grade student Madisen Siegel – and at least 250 students who have signed a petition to return to the old full-period lunch – want the trial program to end, and soon.
Siegel said those relatively fortunate enough to eat lunch during the first section get a full 22 minutes to munch and four minutes to head to the lockers.
If the student's schedule stipulates eating lunch during the second half of the period, they're often forced to scarf down unhealthy food – if there's time, that is – and race to the lockers to make the four-minute cut-off to reach the lockers and get to the next class.
It simply isn't enough time, she told the school board and Superintendent Ray Albano. The policy poses a danger with socializing and pushing developing children to eating junk food, Siegel says. Her research suggested 30 minutes of time to eat lunch.
"Shortening the lunch period only encourages students to either eat unhealthy foods that they can eat quickly, or to not finish their lunch and remain hungry," she said, citing a national health survey. "Neither of these is a good option."
"It's a disaster," parent and BOE candidate Liz Carr added. "I'm vehemently opposed to this."
Carr's daughter often returns home with a half-full lunch box claiming she didn't have time to eat, she said. Carr also noted the students are still navigating the world socially and the short lunch period deprives them of opportunities to interact.
"I would like to invite you people [board members] and the administration to buy lunch, eat lunch, go to the locker all in 20 minutes time and get to class," she said.
According to Siegel, the trial policy is a contradictory one in the first place. Full grades eat lunch together on Fridays, seemingly at odds with the rationale for creating the new times, she said.
Siegel, who found support from audience members and was credited with having poise beyond her years, said she didn't feel the middle school administrators had been very responsive to the students' grievances.
Albano promised the administration would be closely examining the impact of the experimental lunch and he'd set up a meeting between her and the middle school administrators.
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