Future Lunch Waves Spark Potential Plans and Ideas

Without much information on what lunch will look like next year, staff are working to find a plan that will stick


Prior to the COVID pandemic, students during the lunch block at ELHS had the freedom to “self initiate and self sustain their own learning to figure out where they need help and what resources they need to excel,” Board of Education (BOE) member Barry Sheckley said.
Sheckley, Professor Emeritus at the Neag School of Education at UConn, spoke about the former system at ELHS, the open campus format. All students and teachers had the same free 45-minute lunch block to attend club meetings, receive extra help, and prepare for upcoming classes, as well as eating. The system contributed to the school receiving a Blue Ribbon award in 2017 from the United States Department of Education.

This year and last year, COVID forced change in many areas of education; the lunch system at ELHS also took the hit. During the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school year, USDA offered free lunches across the nation to all students. The extra lunches being made and risk of spreading COVID completely shut down the open campus format. This prevents common time for clubs to meet, students to talk to teachers, and anyone to do extra work or eat together.

The question ELHS is now faced with: will the innovative lunch system return or remain in the pandemic wake?

“We still don’t know whether lunches will be free next year or not,” principal Deb Kelly said. “And even if they aren’t free, we still
are unaware of how many students will be buying lunch.”

Should lunch be free this next school year, the food services department would be making more lunches than they would if they
had to be paid for.

In years past, school-made lunches were supplemented by students who brought lunch. This lessened demand on time for kitchen teams preparing lunches. Without that vital information, a plan cannot be put into effect for next year. Administrators are
hopeful to have a plan for lunches by the end of the school year.

“The one thing that I want students to know is that your voices are heard,” principal Kelly said. “My goal is to try to have two lunch waves next year, if we can’t make it one.”

With loosening COVID mandates, staff and students alike are hoping for a return of the one lunch format for next year. These plans, however, have to meet specific guidelines for safety and restrictions, along with the administration’s goal of all students having a chair to sit.

“We can meet all the guidelines that need to be met in terms of seating,” P.E teacher Ms. Carney-Brush, who pushes one lunch
wave said. “The layout has received approval from the custodians for safety. Mr. Hewitt verified the safety of adding more tables to
accompany each student, but there is still more to take into consideration.”

Among these considerations is a two-wave lunch system, which was sent to teachers with the caveat being a daily flex period. This flex period will offer students time to collaborate with teachers and work on anything of their choosing. This provides the time that students would get in one lunch block for work and have time to eat lunch as well.

Although there are ideas circulating for how lunch will physically look, the main concern that principal Kelly and the other
administrators have to take into consideration is amount of lunch available to students.