Archive for Wednesday, April 2, 2003

Area school revokes open lunch policy

Eudora ends privilege as Baldwin discusses it as possibility

April 2, 2003

Just as the Baldwin Board of Education is considering the possibility of open lunch for Baldwin High School, another area school board revoked its district's open lunch program.

After at least eight years of allowing open lunch for seniors, the Eudora school board decided in mid-March that this year's class of 90 seniors would be the last that could leave campus during its lunch period.

"Our No. 1 thing was safety," Eudora Supt. Marty Kobza said. "It was increasing the potential for something to happen."

Kobza said there had been only a few minor accidents in the years the district has allowed open lunch, but couldn't guarantee there wouldn't bigger mishaps.

He said the school's 25-minute lunch period wasn't enough time for the students to leave campus, travel the mile to the closest restaurants, and make it back safely without being tardy.

"We're making them hurry for lunch and making it an unsafe situation," he said.

Other factors also weighed into the board's decision, Kobza said, like the potential for students to participate in at-risk behaviors, like smoking and drinking, during the open lunch period.

"Open lunch gives them another opportunity for that to happen," he said. "We want to eliminate the potential as much as possible."

Eudora's new high school, which will open next school year, also played a part in the board's decision.

Kobza said the current commons area is too small to accommodate all of the students, even with five lunch periods, which is one reason the open lunch policy hadn't been revoked earlier.

"The space wasn't available before," he said. "But next year, there will be a much, much larger eating area."

The school will also be offering an expanded four choices for entrees next year, he said.

"There's no reason there couldn't be something they like to eat," he said.

The board's decision wasn't unanimous. One board member voted against closing open lunch because he said the board was too worried about incidents that hadn't happened yet.

Even though the majority of the school board was in favor of closing open lunch, Brenda Clark, a Eudora school board member, said the decision wasn't one that was made lightly.

"It's a hard call to make," Clark said. "It has been one of those traditions that seniors get to do. But it's something that wasn't a necessity."

She said students' safety had been a big concern for her.

"If kids actually eat out, it boosts businesses. But the timing of lunch time is so small," she said.

"There have been serious accidents with other schools," Clark said. "I know you can't protect the kids all the time, but you can take away some of that possibility. We wanted to be proactive, not reactive."

Alison Bauer, Baldwin school board member, was originally in favor of the open lunch trial for BHS. But after talking with Kobza and parents of Baldwin students, Bauer shares some of the same concerns the Eudora school board had.

"I'm concerned about safety. I'm concerned about the students going home without the parents there," Bauer said. "I feel like we open them up to the possibility for more at-risk behaviors. I don't think we need to give them the opportunity to get in trouble."

She said she realizes the open lunch program would be a success with many students, but the district shouldn't take the chance.

"We can teach responsibility and give them their freedom in other arenas," she said.

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