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Craig, Parker differ on lunch policy

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FRANK J. SCHULTZ
August 26, 2009
— For the first time since 1971, Craig High School will require its ninth-graders to stay on campus during lunch this year.

All students at Parker High School on the city's other side, however, will be allowed to leave for lunch.


The two schools are part of the same district, but their principals have taken different approaches to the open/closed campus issue.


The two high schools begin the year with new, bigger cafeterias that opened during the past school year. More room means it's now feasible to close lunch, at least for some students.


Craig Principal Mike Kuehne plans to expand the restriction to sophomores starting in September 2010.


Parker Principal Steve Schroeder is taking a more cautious approach. He said it's possible that Parker might restrict freshmen one year from now and sophomores the year after that.


A lot depends on this year's freshmen, Schroeder said. If they show responsibility and don't abuse the privilege, lunch might remain open for them.


Schroeder noted that Parker is different from Craig when it comes to freshmen and lunch: Craig has several eateries just a few minutes walk from the school. At Parker, it's not feasible to walk to a restaurant and get back in time, so fewer students without licenses or cars leave campus.


"We haven't had the freshman truancy issues as much as they have in regards to lunchtime periods," Schroeder said.


Kuehne said he wants to keep his younger students away from tobacco and offers to buy "items that are illegal." He also wants to remove the option of not returning after lunch.


The theory is that students who aren't distracted by lunchtime temptations will be able to focus on their studies. District data have shown that ninth grade is difficult for many students who fall behind in their studies, some never to catch up.


Schroeder said he is waiting to see what the data show about truancy and grades of this year's freshmen. Last year's freshmen showed a drop of 17 percent in lunch-related absences from the previous year.


Schroeder is not sure what caused the change. Maybe the class was simply more responsible than its immediate predecessor, he said, or maybe it had something to do with the improved cafeteria offerings and the roomier new cafeteria.


It was not uncommon to see seniors eating lunch at school after the new cafeteria opened last year, Schroeder said. The cafeteria easily handles 600 students in each of the two lunch periods, and everyone has more time to eat.


Cafeteria discipline problems probably also dropped off, although he hasn't seen the data yet, Schroeder said.


"It's just a much more relaxed atmosphere," he said.


Schroeder said he is considering a change in second semester this year to restrict freshmen during lunch if their behavior or grades warrant.


Students who have more than one "F" might be restricted, for example, he said.


Then, all freshmen might be restricted in September 2010, Schroeder said, if the data from the 2009-10 school year lead him to that conclusion. Sophomores would be restricted starting in fall 2011.


"That's a very strong possibility, unless we have data that say we don't need it," Schroeder said.


"And we'll let freshmen know that the determining factors will be attendance and grades. Those two things could decide whether it's open or closed lunch."


Craig frosh to get color-coded IDs

How do you keep 300-plus freshmen in school while you let hundreds of other students go?


That's the challenge for Craig High School when it forbids freshmen from leaving school grounds during lunch this year.


Principal Mike Kuehne said freshmen will be issued red ID cards, while the rest of the students will have blue cards. ID cards also will be printed differently: one in a vertical layout and one horizontal.


Staff will be stationed at all exits and will check cards. Kuehne said if a student manages to sneak out, he or she could be caught on the way back in.


In any case, discipline will be handled as with any other infraction, Kuehne said.


Freshmen will be able to get fresh air at lunchtime, but only at the rear of the building near the cafeteria, Kuehne said. No freshman will be allowed outside the school in any other location.


At Parker High School, Principal Steve Schroeder said such details still need to be worked out if Parker starts keeping some students in for lunch. Parker has 39 exits, and Schroeder said he's not yet sure how to cover all of them.


It's possible teachers would agree to make themselves visible near the exits to deter would-be truants, Schroeder suggested.


Kuehne said he expects a compliance rate of about 95 percent.


"The other 5 percent will need to be convinced there will be consequences."



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