Oceanside says addition will solve school lunch crunch

By Stephen Betts | Sep 07, 2017

Rockland — An addition to Oceanside High School -- which will include a new, larger cafeteria and kitchen -- should be done in time for the next school year and solve the problem of crowded lunch periods, school officials said.

"We want enough room for students to enjoy their lunches," Superintendent John McDonald said. "But we can't do it overnight."

McDonald commented following a day in which a parent started a thread on Facebook that criticized crowded conditions in the high school cafeteria. The thread included numerous criticisms.

He said no student has been made to eat outdoors, but that students are allowed the option to eat outside.

The design for the addition is nearly complete, the superintendent said, and a construction manager may be hired at the Regional School Unit 13 Board meeting scheduled for Thursday evening, Sept. 7.

He said construction for the addition should begin soon after, and the work should be done by the fall of 2018. The superintendent said school officials realized the need for a larger cafeteria and a working kitchen, and that is why it was included in the Schools of Our Future plan.

There are three lunch periods at Oceanside, each lasting 20 minutes, Principal Jennifer Curtis said.

"While some blocks are more congested than others, students appear to have enough time to get their lunch and eat within the 25 minutes allotted. However, with today's weather not allowing for students to eat outside, the congestion was higher than the preceding five school days," the principal said.

The enrollment at the high school jumped from 480 last year to 520 for 2017-2018.

Curtis said she expected an increase in cafeteria usage. Juniors and seniors are allowed to earn lunch privileges that allow them to eat in a teacher classroom or off-campus with parent approval. Freshmen and sophomores must eat in the cafeteria.

With a rather large freshman class, the cafeteria is more populated this year, Curtis said.

This is Curtis' sixth year at Oceanside, and the number of lunch periods has increased. She said when she started teaching at the high school, students were allowed to sit in the hallways.

Curtis said she brought back senior leave last year and extended it this year to include juniors to reduce cafeteria congestion and reward positive student achievement.

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