Hallway Dining: ACA’s cafeteria, too small for the ever-growing student population

The Charter – Editorial – Nicole Engelke

Lunchtime at ACA is a busy time – families with younger kids find each other, middle and high school students emerge from classrooms, tired from lectures, tests, and labs, for their 30-minute break.  However, they don’t all have a place to actually eat. If you’re slow getting to the cafeteria, you might just find that the hallway, gym, or out in the weather are your only options.

Now, not all of the students want to eat in the lunchroom. A portion of the energetic students head to the gym or outside for a quick game of dodgeball before their next class. Others, who chose not to sit in the cafeteria, in the hallway, or play in the gym, can find refuge in an empty classroom.

Those students who would prefer to eat indoors have their reasons. Some become overwhelmed by the crowded, noisy cafeteria making the less crowded hallway or a secluded classroom the only place for them to eat. For others it is simply that they cannot find an empty seat in the cafeteria during lunch time.

One of the hallway kids, 7th grader Abby Ninneman, says that over the school year, that one space in the hallway has become a central meeting place for her and her friends. She states that the reason they began sitting there in the first place was because there was nowhere in the cafeteria for them to sit as a group.

A few years ago, ACA attempted to improve the situation by setting up what is now the Study Hall room as afamily to make room forfamilies in the cafeteria. This was a good idea, but it didn’t end up working the way they had hoped. Not manyfamilies actually ate in the room and the school needed the space for Study Hall.

Students who do eat in the cafeteria said that they chose the cafeteria because they were not bothered by the crowded nature and noise of the room. According to Tazio Villali, a sophomore at ACA, “I used to eat in the hallway and it was filthy…[the cafeteria] has nice tables.”

Although the students have become used to their certain spaces around the school where they spend their lunch time, the cafeteria was originally built for more students than currently enrolled at ACA. It seems as if the people taking up the most room are the families that eat there too.

It is nice to have the parents of younger students onsite to help out around the school. It creates a very family oriented atmosphere at the school. However, many families with children enrolled have younger children that cannot be left at home while the other children attend their classes. This means that the families have to eat lunch in the cafeteria along with the students. It is quite common for families to arrive earlier than twelve o’clock and claim a table in the lunchroom. This means that when the middle and high school kids get out of class and head down to lunch, there is less room for them to sit and eat in the cafeteria.

During lunch, many have noticed that two or three families can take up a whole table. The cafeteria is sized for hundreds of students, but not hundreds of students and dozens of families along with their small children.

Although the students affected by the overcrowding of the cafeteria have configured a solution to the problem, many are still asking, is this the best ACA can do for its students?

There are other options than practically forcing students to sit and eat in hallways and empty classrooms. Having a certain room for any student who needs a quiet place to eat lunch is one option so that students who need that can find it with other students who need it too.

Reconfiguring class schedules to fit in two lunch periods, one for younger students and another for middle school and high school students. Most middle schools and some high schools in the Oregon City School District (OCSD) have this system; although it usually depends on what classes you have, not which grade you are in. ACA only has one lunch period and introducing this system would give students in both periods much better chances of finding a seat in the cafeteria.

Seeing as the space that families take up in the cafeteria could be used for students, the idea of having a seperate room for the families to eat should be reconsidered. Perhaps the board could analyze the system they created a while back and figure out where they went wrong. If they did this and reconfigured the system to work better, they could reintroduce the system, leaving more room open for students in the cafeteria.

Finding ways to open up space in the cafeteria for students should be the main goal as the point of the cafeteria is to have one clean place for students to gather, socialize, and eat. Having most of the students in one place, like the cafeteria, would make it much easier for the staff that are keeping track of students to do their job as most of them would be in the same space.

Even if nothing is done immediately to fix this problem, the topic should at least be recognized as an actual problem that needs to be addressed, and ideas of a solution that benefits everyone involved should be proposed.

Bibliography

Villali, Tazio. Personal interview. Jan 17, 2018.

Ninneman, Abby. Personal interview. Jan 17, 2018.

Scott, Ashton. Personal interview. Jan 17, 2018.

Silbernagel, Olivia. Personal interview. Jan 29, 2018.

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