Since the first day that students came back in person, they have had to eat lunch at three different times. Lunch group A goes from 11:12 a.m. to 11:42 a.m, lunch group B goes from 11:55 a.m. to 12:25 p.m, and lunch group C goes from 12:42 p.m. to 1:12 p.m. The most obvious issue that this system causes is that students in lunch group C are more hungry than usual, as they have to wait longer to eat their lunch.
In a survey of 20 students that I conducted, students were asked their opinion of the lunch shift system. The majority of students dislike the system. A likely reason for this is some students end up eating lunch about an hour later than last year. However, an equal amount of students either favor the new system or don’t mind it.
The most important question that students were asked, though, was if this new system made them feel safer. While this system may be working in reality, a large number of students, close to half, do not feel safer with the lunch system (Related: school safety extends into the classroom, too).
The main reason that the surveyed students disliked this system was that many of the students don’t get to sit with their friends during lunch. Some students even have none of their usual friends in their lunch group. There is a positive and a negative to this. The positive is that it may force some students to meet new people that they normally wouldn’t. However, the negative is that students may not be socializing enough, which is not good for mental health, especially with the social isolation this year.
According to the University of Minnesota Libraries, if a small child were to experience no social interaction for their whole life, they would be fearful of others, would have trouble speaking, would have trouble communicating emotions, and this small child would simply not act human. Simply put, humans are social creatures, and it’s especially important for children and teens to experience social interaction. While this does not translate as extremely to the lunch shift system, the same principles apply. For example, after extensive lock-downs, students may become a lot more shy and hesitant to talk to other students, or even teachers. Or, the student could have more difficulty communicating emotion which could make it more difficult to determine things like depression or anxiety. The want of social interaction this year could have potentially serious effects on mental health.
However, the lunch measures are for the students’ safety, as we are still in the time of COVID-19. But, a compromise would be to only have 2 lunch groups, so that way students don’t eat as late, and they have a higher chance of being in the same group as their friends. At any rate, while students may not like it, this system will probably not be going away anytime soon.