Lunch to be closed for underclassmen

The+school+cafeteria+offers+meals+daily%2C+and+next+years+freshman+and+sophomores+are+expected+to+eat+food+provided+by+the+cafeteria+or+home.+Photo+by+Daphne+Yu

The school cafeteria offers meals daily, and next year’s freshman and sophomores are expected to eat food provided by the cafeteria or home. Photo by Daphne Yu

Brittany Cornelison

The school cafeteria offers meals daily, and next year's freshman and sophomores are expected to eat food provided by the cafeteria or home. Photo by Daphne Yu
The school cafeteria offers meals daily, and next year’s freshman and sophomores are expected to eat food sold at the cafeteria or from home. Photo by Daphne Yu
As the transition into the 2013-14 year quickly approaches, administration continues to work out the details so next year’s three-high-school, four-year system runs smoothly. A major issue they have encountered is the proposal of open-campus lunch for all students.
In a recent board meeting, the Columbia Public Schools administration decided campus will be closed for freshmen and sophomores at all high schools, but they will maintain an open-campus policy for upperclassmen.
CPS made the decision based upon information collected in a survey sent out by the district coordinators, RBHS principal Mark Maus said. This survey showed an overwhelming support from adults for closed lunch and the exact opposite reaction from students.
“The parents were very strong against open lunch in general … our students were very much for it,” Maus said. “I think that our students need to have a voice … I think our students also need to talk to their parents and discuss with them what they feel, because overwhelmingly, the parents did not  support an open lunch, and we have to listen to all stake-holders when we make decisions as a district.”
Some students believe part of the reason parents have been arguing for closed lunch is because they feel students will be irresponsible if there is an open campus.  However, students are continuing to advocate for open lunch.
Current Jefferson Junior High School freshman and future RBHS student Grant Sykuta said the only reason he thinks closed campus would be initiated is if there were a lack of trust from parents and administrators.
“I think it’s kind of stupid because parents are complaining when it really hasn’t been that big of a problem in the past. They just need to go with the flow,” Sykuta said. “It’s the idea of innocent until proven guilty; you shouldn’t take something away if you haven’t tried it.”
RBHS sophomore Haley Birk agrees with Sykuta and believes open lunch should be granted for freshman and sophomores. She said underclassmen are fully capable of taking care of themselves while out at lunch. Since the majority of freshman and sophomores won’t have a vehicle to drive themselves out to lunch with, they would be left to either walk or find a ride with a junior or senior student.
“They’re 14 and 15-years-old, which is plenty old enough to manage a little bit of responsibility,” Birk said. “And since they’d be going with upperclassmen, it wouldn’t really be all that big of a deal.”
Since the district made the decision to close campus for the underclassmen, administration now deals with how to enforce this new policy in the future. Dr. Chris Belcher, superintendent for CPS, said the administration realizes having open lunch is a tradition in the school district, but they are taking the aspect of student safety into careful consideration.
“We thought the best case scenario was closing it for those who typically don’t drive … and we think that the parents would prefer for us to do that so their child didn’t make choices that maybe they didn’t approve of,” Belcher said. “It may be that our lunch shifts will be more driven by class; in other words, certain lunch shifts will be more dominant with freshmen and sophomores, and other lunch shifts will be more dominant with juniors and seniors.”
This may be the only way to ensure that only upperclassmen are the ones to leave during lunch. Because RBHS has prided itself in its motto, “freedom with responsibility”, Maus said this change is going to require a great deal of student accountability.
“I think a lot of it goes back to, do you trust kids? And the way we are at RBHS is, we trust kids … when we ask them to do things and have expectations, they rise to them. And then those that don’t, we work with them,” Maus said. “But to me, it goes back to more of philosophy and the practice that has been ingrained in RBHS I believe, since it opened 39 years ago, and that is that we trust kids and treat them as young adults … and to me, it’s what makes RBHS great.”
By Brittany Cornelison
Additional Reporting by Daphne Yu and Alyssa Sykuta
battle-logoThis is part of the Preparing for Battle ongoing special report. For more information on the changes occurring as the district opens a new high school in the fall of 2013, check Bearing News biweekly for a transition update.