Opportunities for open lunch give students a break during the day


Andy Eyerman

Students leave the building during their open lunch period. Administration decided to allow open lunch this year to alleviate crowding in the lunchroom.

Andy Eyerman, Staff Writer

The open lunch program at Hayes is back this year, but some changes make it a little different. The schedule change at Hayes has made the lunch period 45 minutes, rather than the two thirty-minute periods for lunch and house. In addition, there are four lunch periods rather than only two this school year.
During the 2020-21 school year, open lunch wasn’t available to students because of Covid-19. But now, students are required to leave every day during their lunch period if their open lunch request is approved.
The return of open lunch definitely made a lot of students feel like things are getting back to normal. Some students may see it as an opportunity to get out of school for a bit. On top of that, it helps decrease the number of students in the school during lunch periods, which is helpful in maintaining low Covid-19 numbers.
“It helps our numbers in the cafeteria, but also helps juniors and seniors,” assistant principal Rex Reeder said. “It’s a nice incentive for them.”
Administrators are trusting students to stay safe at open lunch, and the feedback that has been received has been fairly positive thus far.
“In Covid, I think it’s something positive [for students] to be able to leave the building and have some of that freedom back,” Reeder said. “We’re trusting students to do that; I trust our students to make the right choices and go from there.”
Students have to meet certain requirements to keep open lunch. The main three factors that determine whether a student keeps open lunch are grades, attendance, and discipline. Grades and attendance will be checked throughout the year to ensure that students who leave for lunch are not falling behind in their work. If students are having issues with either of those, disciplinary action will be taken and their open lunch will be revoked.
“We’ll probably start checking grades and attendance and take it away from students who aren’t meeting those standards,” Reeder said.
The criteria is periodically evaluated to make sure that all students with open lunch are balancing their schoolwork with their extra free time.
So far, administrators have not had to take open lunch away from any students.
One of the biggest changes to open lunch this school year is the fact that students are required to leave the building if they get approved for open lunch.
Technically, students have always had to leave for open lunch in past years. However, this is the first year the staff are able to enforce it due to Covid-19 contact tracing. This rule helps to hold students accountable for knowing where they need to be.
While open lunch is a fun time for most, not all enjoy the new rule.
“Sometimes I wish I could stay at school and just be with my friends,” junior Emily Chairez said. “It gets boring sometimes when I’m with myself.”
During their free time, students can go wherever they want, as long as they are back to school by their next class period. A lot of students either go out to eat with friends or go home to eat and relax before heading back to school.
“My friends and I usually go to Pulp or Starbucks,” senior Madison Salyers said. “I wish [open lunch] was longer because we don’t have much time to do stuff.”
The lunch period is an opportunity for students to socialize and be with their friends who they don’t typically see in classes. While some may use the time to catch up on homework, it is more often used for socialization.
Some students can even get an extended open lunch period if they have a study hall right before or right after their lunch period. That gives them even more time to relax, hang out with friends or get caught up on homework.
“I do go out to eat, homework I do maybe twice a week,” Chairez said.
Most students who have open lunch can drive, which gives them even more places to go. If they don’t drive, they usually have friends who can take them places.
The open lunch program at Hayes has been a positive experience for students and staff alike. Students can go outside and take a break, and staff know that it is helping the closeness of all of the rest of the students in the school.
Overall, Reeder said implementing the program into Hayes has shown to be a good experience for everybody involved, helping students learn to balance leisure and work as they move towards adulthood.
“I had [open lunch] when I was in school, so I think it’s great to be able to go out, take a break,” Reeder said. “We respect our students and treat them like adults.”