Opinion | Assigned cafeterias prevent students from seeing friends

Stella Davis, Staff writer

As students were told to go to their assigned cafeterias on the first day of school, some were then turned away, causing many to wander the halls and an influx of stress for safety and students alike. Furthermore, closed courtyards and limited seating that was not communicated to students also brought a lot of unnecessary confusion during the first weeks of school.

In my experience from last year, the school did not mind which cafeteria students went to, and it made the process a lot easier, especially for incoming freshmen. Even in the midst of a pandemic, the struggle of trying to align schedules with your friends and finding a place to eat was entirely effortless. When it was possible to sit in any cafeteria of your choice, the four cafeterias had a lot of seating options, making it easy for people to spread out. Taking away this opportunity took the best part of lunch: eating with your friends. 

Along with assigned cafeterias, ETHS closed both the senior and planetarium courtyards, which are arguably the best place to eat in August through October and in the spring. These courtyards used to be open to all grades and had tables and tents set up along with seating in the grass. Statistics from the American Psychological Association show that exposure to nature has numerous benefits like improved attention, lower stress, and a better mood. Why take this opportunity away, especially after students are inside for seven hours of their school day? 

Sophomore Ashlyn Rogowski voices her experience from the first day with the new policy. 

“My friends and I sat in the study center, and it was really hard because of the rules of not using our phones and being really quiet, but we sacrificed to eat with each other,” Rogowski says. 

Rogowski wasn’t alone. Lots of students have been forced to eat in new locations without the option of the courtyards. 

With many people eating in the Hub and Academic Study Center, both spaces have become heavily overcrowded. The line to the Hub is out the door every day and forces the staff to turn people away once they reach the maximum capacity. This leaves students wandering the halls, worrying about whether or not they will even be able to find a place to eat that day. A similar experience has occurred in the study center. Students are using it as a place to eat lunch, when, really, it should just be a place to study.  Now, study hall classes are forced to prohibit students from leaving the class, which defeats the purpose of getting help from teachers in the study center. Overall, students’ options have become much more limited because of the strict policy.

“I just want to be able to eat lunch with my friends,” junior Bo Gylling concludes. “It sucks that my only break of the day is spent alone or with people I don’t know.”