Cafeteria policies hamstring students’ social lives, give order, structure to lunch blocks

Elizabeth Wenning and Ella Cleary

The 2022-2023 school year has brought about many new changes to school policy, including changes made to the cafeterias. This year’s rigid rules regarding cafeterias have left many students feeling frustrated and caused an abundance of students to decide to leave the school during lunch, especially during the warm days of summer.

While last year the option to leave the school during a lunch block was made available to all students, rather than just the upperclassmen, this year, the school has kept the option open to just the sophomores, juniors and seniors. The ETHS administration chose to keep the campus open for the current sophomores who had the opportunity to leave school last year, but this year’s freshmen have to stay in for lunch. 

Another change made this year has been the strict enforcement of assigned cafeterias. This rule was introduced last year, and it dictates that every student go to their designated cafeteria unless they’re leaving for lunch or going to another space such as the Hub or the Academic Study Center. This policy wasn’t tightly enforced last year, and many students were able to go to other cafeterias. However, this year, administration has been cracking down on this rule and making sure students are in the right place.

“[Not having assigned cafeterias]  resulted in a lot of folks in the hallway, a lot of unstructured, unsupervised spaces… We’re not a college campus, we’re still a high school, we want to provide freedom, which is why, if you don’t have social probation or detention tardies, you can go out for lunch, from sophomore to senior year. We want to make sure that we are supporting students, and that we have some structure. Sometimes, we have to set some parameters or expectations. You can’t just be walking all over. It’s really hard to manage, it’s hard for safety to manage,” Assistant Superintendent Taya Kinzie explains. 

The assigned cafeterias provide more structure for students, allow administration to keep track of students, and ensure cafeterias aren’t reaching max capacity. However, many students dislike this change as it separates them from their friends, who may be assigned to a different cafeteria. 

“Pros with assigned lunchrooms is that [staff] know where students are and they can see how many people are in each lunchroom, but it’s not great in a social sense. It’s great for the administrators, but if people want to go see their friends during lunch that can’t happen anymore,” says senior Cricket Wright.

This strictly enforced policy has led to more students leaving the building for lunch so they can see their friends, but because of this, there is excessive crowding in lines to go outside.

“Most of the time I stay inside because there’s not enough time in the period to go out, get food, and come back,” said Wright. “Half the time you’re waiting [in line] to get outside and you have no time to do anything.”

Many students have also noticed that one of the doors to leave during lunch has been moved to be right in front of the health office, which has created crowding problems in the North hallway and blocks students from entering the Health Office. 

 “I feel like it’s inefficient because it’s not a very big hallway, and everyone is crammed in there and also people need to get into the health office at that time. When people need to get through there, no one is willing to budge. It doesn’t feel safe,” stated Wright. 

The cafeterias have also experienced similar overcrowding problems. 

“In North Cafeteria, on the first day, they didn’t have enough chairs and tables for everyone, so a lot of people were standing. They should’ve accounted for the number of people that were going to come to each place. I also don’t like how there are new entrances and exits to the cafeterias. It’s too crowded. It’s not set up well,” says Wright. 

The excessive crowding in the cafeterias can partly be attributed to the new block schedule. Before the block schedule was introduced, there were more lunch periods in a day. Now that there are just two lunch periods in a day, there are more students going to lunch simultaneously, causing long lines and crowding. To solve this issue, many other areas of the school have been opened for lunch, such as the Hub and, most recently, the Academic Study Center.

“One of the things that we planned at the beginning of the school year was our Academic Study Center. You can bring your own lunch there. You can get a cold sack lunch. So those are options so that even if you aren’t bringing food from home, you have that option,” explains Kinzie. 

While the new cafeteria policies may make the social lives of students more challenging, for administrators, they are just another way that the school continues to adjust to the new block schedule and improve safety conditions in the building.