The beginning of the 2014-2015 school year marked a distinct change in Verona High School’s schedule. Instead of two separate periods for two separate lunches every day, the administration merged both lunches into a single period. It wasn’t the first time VHS tried single-period lunch, but thanks to the results of this year’s trial, it may mean that single-period lunch is here to stay.
The idea of a single-period lunch dates back to around 2004 when the school was looking into the possibility of block scheduling, which involves class periods being divided into “blocks” that rotate on a daily basis. With everyone take a break for lunch at the same time, students could seek out teachers for extra help, additional instructional minutes could be added to classes, and science lab time would no longer take away from certain classes. Clubs could meet during the school day instead of after school. Single-period lunch was implemented during the 2007-2008 school year and met with generally positive reception.
According to VHS Principal Glenn Cesa, it made lunch into “a relaxing period and a much needed break in the day, when students can talk with friends or catch up with school work by visiting the library.”
But the change didn’t stick. VHS went back to the two-lunch system the following school year because there were difficulties in students being served all in one period, as well as having enough room for students to have lunch.
The administration sought ways to bring their original plan back to the VHS. After it confirmed that the school’s current food provider, Pomptonian Food Service, could handle the one-lunch schedule and made it possible for students to eat lunch in several places around the building, it was reintroduced to the school for the 2014-2015 year.
The staff appears to be quite accepting of the return of the single-period lunch. Graphic Arts teacher Helene McLaughlin, who admittedly was initially skeptical about the change since the previous lunch provider “didn’t seem to be able to handle the crowd,” has embraced it for its many positive aspects, especially since it “allows students who have limited free time after school to still be involved.” She also believes that the students like it since they are able to eat lunch with their friends and “don’t have that socially awkward possibility of ‘not knowing anyone’ in lunch,” a problem which was present back when it was divided into two separate periods.
For teacher Pam Burke, the single-period lunch eliminated the distraction of students walking in the hall during their lunch while a class is going on. This is an aspect of how she believes the system “keeps everyone on the same schedule,” especially with the aforementioned abilities for clubs to meet and students to speak with teachers.
Students have also received this system quite well for many of the previously mentioned reasons. Senior Sarah Madigan addressed the benefit of being able to go out to lunch with all of her friends now that they are able to leave at the same time on a daily basis, while Isabelle Schecter added that it allows for more time to go out.
Despite the mostly warm response it elicited, the single-period lunch system is not without its drawbacks. Some of the more negligible issues include the period seeming rather long for students not in meetings and long lines in the cafeteria. One major concern, though, seems to be the apparent overcrowding of the two main designating eating areas (including the cafeteria and the “Old Gym”). Schecter claims that due to this, she isn’t sure if she would approve of the single-period lunch as much if she were an underclassmen and additionally pointed out that many of the alternatives to the two rooms provided, such as the band room hallway, involve sitting on the floor.
In an overall sense, it would appear that VHS’s return to a single-period lunch system this year was greatly successful, as it seemed that the school was much better equipped for it than previous years. Although there are a few imperfections, it is entirely possible for them to be worked out in the future in order to improve the experience. Cesa, who is stepping down as principal of the high school to become director of athletics this fall, believes that this system proved to be a success and hopes that it will be maintained for future years. “We look forward to providing additional enhancements in the future to make our one lunch period an even greater success.”