Students Adjust to Non-Traditional Lunch

Student Opinions on the New Lunch and Learn

Katie Vastola and Moira Sirois

Editor and Staff Writer

With the 2021-2022 school year starting, Alexandria City High School made adjustments to the lunch schedule. Instead of the traditional lunch block schedule that A.C. previously used, where four lunches would go in shifts, there is now one 74-minute lunch period. Students can use this time to get work done, see teachers and friends, in addition to eating lunch.

So far, students have been enjoying their freedom to choose where they go and what they do. Junior Anna Huber-Wilker said, “I plan on eating lunch for the first 30ish minutes then going to a classroom and doing whatever work I need to.” 

A new feature of lunch this year is outdoor seating. In previous years, only the cafeteria was open to students. This year, however, there are three places for outdoor seating: the rooftop garden, outside the cafeteria by King Street, and the plaza by the bus loop. Senior Jean Sanchez said he likes the outdoor seating because “It provides freedom for students and allows them to get fresh air.” Freshman Susan Jackson eats in the courtyard at Minnie Howard and agrees, saying, “It’s nice to get fresh air after having to wear a mask for a while.”

Additionally, students are taking advantage of the longer lunch block to visit counselors and get homework done early. Huber-Wilker said, “I like having more time to do my work during school because it helps me focus better.” Senior Cade Stinson also plans on using this time to get work done and said he plans on going to see his teachers if he ever needs to.

The transition from online school to in-person has been an adjustment for some because most students are transitioning from a virtual environment to a 100% in-person environment, and everyone is around more people than they were this time last year. 

Advanced Placement (AP) Psychology and US/VA History teacher, Bernadette DeSario, said, “It [Lunch and Learn] also provides us the opportunity to engage more students in clubs that traditionally may not have been able to stay after school.”

One issue with Lunch and Learn has been crowds and space for eating lunch. The cafeteria can only fit so many students, and the school shuts the doors once it gets full. This leads to long lines and long wait times to get food, and more crowds in the hallways as people wait for the doors to open again. However, in addition to the cafeteria, many classrooms are open to students for eating to try and limit crowds in and around the cafeteria.

Students enjoy lunch in the cafeteria during the second half of Lunch and Learn. Photo courtesy of Moria Sirois.

 Stinson said, “more outdoor seating would be great so that people can stay spaced out while they are eating.” Huber-Wilker agrees, saying having more organized areas where people eat and hang out would improve Lunch and Learn.

Desario said, “I would love to see a lunch cart on both the second and third floors to help the crowding in the cafeteria,” and mentioned that having more quiet study spaces available could also help.

Teachers are enjoying Lunch and Learn just as much as students are. “I have been able to work with students who have questions about class [and] I have time to meet with other teachers… and plan instructional activities,” said DeSario.

Kimberly Wilson, the Early Childhood Development teacher, said she is always looking to make things work, “My Lunch and Learn time is a revolving door, people are constantly in and out.”

Overall, students and teachers appreciate Lunch and Learn and the opportunities that it provides. Wilson, the Early Childhood Development teacher, said, “I believe that the only way we learn is through trial and error, and if we don’t make errors, then we don’t know how to make it better.”

While Lunch and Learn is not perfect, teachers and staff are working hard to make it work for everyone.