Off campus lunch off limits for underclassmen

Students+wait+in+the+throng+attempting+to+buy+lunch+Sept.+24+in+the+RBHS+cafeteria.+Photo+by+Brett+Stover.+

Students wait in the throng attempting to buy lunch Sept. 24 in the RBHS cafeteria. Photo by Brett Stover.

Jay Whang

Students wait in the throng attempting to buy lunch Sept. 24 in the RBHS cafeteria. Photo by Brett Stover.
Students wait in the throng attempting to buy lunch Sept. 24* in the RBHS cafeteria. Photo by Brett Stover.

Freshman Wilson Fitzgerald approached a lunch cart near the planetarium and picked out Bosco sticks. He bit into the greasy breadstick, the cheese melting inside his mouth. As much as he enjoyed the moment, he said he would rather leave school and eat at Shakespeare’s Pizza.
Last year, the Columbia Public School board changed the lunch policy from open to more restricted when the freshmen came to RBHS for the first time.
“I think it should be open campus for everyone,” Fitzgerald said, expressing his view on the district’s new lunch policy.
At the start of this year, freshmen entered RBHS for the first time. The school board considered various changes to existing lunch policies, including open-campus lunch for underclassmen. Between last September and December CPS principals, including then-RBHS Principal Mark Maus, gathered along with Laina Fullum, director of nutrition services and Dr. Jolene Yoakum, assistant superintendent for secondary education.
“We were transitioning to some new configuration instead of having ten to twelve, we are now having nine through 12. So what we realized is that this is a good time to stop and examine our practices of many different things, not just open lunch,” Dr. Yoakum said. “And we looked up policies, and we also considered ongoing concerns about safety and supervision of students, and, of course, we are looking at all the high schools, not just one.”
At the meeting, the committee decided to ask people in the community their thoughts on open-campus lunch at the high schools. According to their survey of the Columbia community, CPS students, teachers and parents, 81 percent of 550 students believe lunch should be open for all freshmen to seniors, at the same time 28 percent of them believe open lunch should be an earned privilege. However, the majority of parents and members of the Columbia community were concerned more about students getting back to school on time after leaving campus for lunch and their safety in traffic; therefore, they preferred closed-campus lunch for underclassmen. 
Last December, the committee reviewed survey results, and decided that freshmen and sophomores would remain on campus during lunch, while juniors and seniors would have the option of leaving campus. The committee also reviewed facility options, food choices and nutritional guidelines and reached a consensus on open-lunch. Later, they took that recommendation to the school board, where it was approved.
The change also affects RBHS’s cafeteria staff. According to Fullum, the number of students buying school lunches went down eight percent last year. With more restricted policy and more students, lunch workers are more busy than usual. 
“It made it more difficult to have right amount of foods made,” head cafeteria worker Shannon Brown said. 
Underclassmen faced this change with mixed reactions. Freshmen like Gretchen Cook and Jim Hornmann said they understand the change, especially because they don’t have their own transportation.
“I kind of agree with it because we don’t have cars, and we can’t drive,” Cook said.
And Hormann himself expressed similar thought with Cook; he doesn’t mind about staying at the campus eating his lunch, even though he thought it would be nice to go out and eat.
“I think that it is not a horrible decision. I mean I would have the ability to go and walk over to a place to get different kinds of lunch than [school lunch],” Hornmann said. “since we don’t drive, and we can’t get around it’s harder to go the place in time. I think it’s certainly makes freshmen and sophomores safer.”
By Jay Whang
*In the print version of this article published in The Rock, the date of the photo was incorrectly stated as September 28.