Lunch Bunched

Students call for a better place to eat lunch

Lunch Bunched

Jayden Rodriguez, Writer

Oakwood High School is a small school in a rather small community with about 1,058 students enrolled in the junior and senior high. Despite small enrollment, the school still has space issues. The cafeteria is too small to accommodate all the students in the school. The fire code allows 185 students in the cafeteria at once, which means the cafeteria can accommodate about one grade at a time. The stadium is often shut down due to other students littering the area and the weather has been keeping students inside for lunch since January.

At the high school, freshman and sophomores are most affected by this issue since some sophomores and typically all freshmen don’t have their drivers license, so they don’t have a way to leave school in a car. Inside, there aren’t many places for students in the freshman and sophomore hallway to sit because there are only a few pieces of furniture or benches. Most students end up sitting on the ground, and it can be very uncomfortable. A student can usually go to the library for lunch, but that’s only once they’ve finished eating. A poll of 31 sophomores revealed that 16 felt that the sophomore hallway was too uncomfortable.

“It’s just too hot and there’s no furniture,” Chris Laatz (10) said.

The freshmen hall is somewhere else a student can each lunch. Of the three freshmen that were interviewed, none of them had a problem with that hallway, even though students often eat on the ground. Also, the freshman hall has better lighting and cellphone reception than the sophomore hall.

“Lunch is usually pretty fun since I get to hang out with my friends and make jokes, but it can be slightly uncomfortable sometimes,” Sarah Hall (9) said.

Superintendent Kyle Ramey is aware of these issues.

“If everyone stayed at school for lunch – yes it is too small to accommodate the number of students at one time.  However, there are multiple timing options that could address this issue,” Ramey said.

Timing options refers to having different grades use a staggered schedule, where they all eat lunch at different times. Principal Paul Waller has concerns about how Oakwood would implement this into their program.

“The main problem with doing so is that we’d have to cut down on lunchtime,” Waller said. Waller also stated that if the school went with different timed lunches they’d have to get rid of clubs during lunch, and doesn’t see it happening in the foreseeable future.

With no immediate plans to create a timed lunch schedule, there’s still a good amount of students who eat lunch on the ground in the hallways, even if most of them go home or out for lunch.

One thing the administration did acknowledge is the challenge of eating in the hallway is the cleanliness of eating there since some trash is left out.

On a positive note, Ramey said, “Mr. Waller has been working for the past couple of years to create new, flexible space and furniture for kids to eat and hang out in the lobby, hallways, and PTO’s and an outdoor project and we are working on the Alumni Plaza which will be great space, too.”

That’s not a bad idea for when the weather’s nice, but in the colder months it still doesn’t address the issue at hand. Each hallway is designated to a specific grade, except for the science hall, and there really is no other option but to sit on the ground where hallways are crowded with other students’ feet with the lack of furniture.

Natrona County High School, located in Wyoming, has a common area with two stories of tables, and while Oakwood’s cafeteria isn’t very high, making a second story for a cafeteria would be a fantastic idea. With fewer students outside in the hallway, it can be easier for other students to get through.

Matt Salyer, both physical education and health teacher, monitors the hallway for students to come into the lunchroom. He highlighted a concern the school might face while adding a new room.

“The biggest problem would be supervision since everything that goes on here needs to be monitored. Especially another room,” Salyer said. “But we’d also need to make sure the area’s safe. Specifically with entrances and exits.”

Currently, some teachers monitor the hallways during lunchtime. The issue could be addressed by designating teachers to supervise the area, and the safe exits would be a top priority for the school.

As of right now, the ideas for a new lunch area seem completely visionary, according to the Master Facility Plans.

For an immediate response, the school could put more benches in between doors in the less narrow hallways of the school and where there aren’t lockers.

As of right now, new cafeteria spaces don’t seem to be a top priority. The school still plans to focus on its infrastructure including plumbing as well as heating systems before it works on its renovations that are planned for anytime around 2035 to 2038.