Administration Addresses Cafeteria Challenges

In a school with more than 3000 students, rules must be implemented to keep all the students safe. Responding to safety concerns regarding overcrowding in...

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In a school with more than 3000 students, rules must be implemented to keep all the students safe. Responding to safety concerns regarding overcrowding in the cafeteria, the administration has been enforcing policies like the no-headphones rule, and is requiring students to swipe their IDs to enter the lunchroom. However, these policies have sparked outrage among many students, who are put off by the long lines for the cafeteria and question the purported benefits.

One of the newly enforced policies is that students must swipe in at the scanners in front of the cafeteria upon entering. According to Assistant Principal of Security, Health, and Physical Education Brian Moran, this was implemented due to student complaints regarding the cafeteria. “We were getting a lot of students [who] were complaining that there’s no room anywhere to sit, so we want to make sure that the students [who] are there are supposed to be there, that they have lunch,” Moran said. “It’s mostly [for] capacity reasons, to make sure students that are there can be comfortable, sit down, eat their lunch, and not have to stand up [or] eat on a bench.”

The scanning of ID cards was also implemented to prevent students from cutting classes and going to the cafeteria. “We have found in the past that students cut in there and stay in there for multiple periods, and it’s kind of a place where kids can sometimes just hide out. So we want to make sure [that] who’s in there is supposed to be in there,” Moran said.

In addition, the school has been enforcing its no-headphones policy more heavily in the cafeteria. This change was made to make policy more consistent throughout the building, and to eliminate the confusion regarding where headphones can be used. Moran stressed that students must be more cognizant of when and where they decide to use their electronics given their increased freedom with the updated cell phone policy. “It is important to remember that we created the cell phone [policy] through the SLT [School Leadership Team], meaning students, parents, [and] teachers all had input and it was overwhelmingly supported,” Moran said. “So we gave you guys some extra freedoms, and with that comes more responsibilities.”

While many of these policy changes appear to be new, these plans have been in the works for years. The scanning is a continuation of past years' policy; previously, scanning students into the lunchroom was standard protocol, but was halted temporarily as the scanning machines were being repaired and new parts needed to be ordered. “There are no new policies that are being implemented in the cafeteria. We are going to begin scanning, like we’ve done in the past; we are bringing that back, where students will have to scan into the [cafeteria] during their frees or lunch period,” Moran said.

Despite the administration's intention to make the cafeteria a safer and more welcoming environment, some students have expressed their dissatisfaction with the new changes. Junior Theadora Williams has spent her lunch periods protesting against the changes in the cafeteria. “The new scanning protocol [...] doesn’t do anything, it just slows everyone down,” she said.

Williams also added that scanning in IDs would not reduce cafeteria issues, and suggested improvements that the administration could implement instead. “[The administration] is forcing the students to use the cafeteria because they keep on trying to stop kids from eating outside,” she said. As an alternative, she suggested that the school increase the number of tables and chairs in order to combat overcrowding.

Senior and SLT Representative Nina Jennings recognizes the student and safety concerns regarding the scanners in the cafeteria. “The scanners being added has, according to many students, slowed down the process [of getting] into the cafeteria during popular lunch periods, and the wait often crowds the entrance and nearby stairwell. Not only is this an issue of inconvenience, [but] it also becomes a safety hazard when many students are crowding areas like the stairwell and hallway during passing,” Jennings said in an e-mail interview.

The Student Union is working with the administration through the SLT to reach an agreement in which students and the administration are both satisfied. “We have to understand these policies were instituted for administrative reasons, but we hope that we can find a way to make these policies more suitable for student happiness,” Jennings said. “We have opened conversation with the administration about the headphone and scanners issues in the cafeteria, and several members of the administration have begun seeking solutions.”

While the school is attempting to address consistency in their policy and overcrowding, the administration has long seen issues regarding maintenance and cleanliness of the cafeteria. “We are the biggest high school in Manhattan and [...] we do not do a good job cleaning up in the cafeteria. There are always food trays left behind, and if they wind up in the garbage they don’t get recycled,” Moran said.

To combat this, administration is enforcing cleanup protocols in the cafeteria and extending enforcement beyond that of previous years. “If you remember last year, the principal and myself and the APs, every period, would be in the cafeteria reminding students to pick up after themselves,” Moran said. “We have school aids and deans and other staff members that are assigned to the [cafeteria] doing their best. But it is a lot of students and it is five periods a day. It is very busy in there so if students don’t take personal responsibility, it gets very messy and obviously the recycling thing will not be as successful.”

Moran emphasized the responsibilities students have in the cafeteria. “I absolutely think that every student should be responsible for cleaning up after themselves,” Moran said. “The Environmental Club, which does a tremendous job with [biology teacher Marissa] Maggio, has been overwhelmed because of the fact that other students aren’t chipping in and doing their part. So I think they can only do so much; every student has to participate.”

Members of the Environmental Club say that the increased enforcement is making a difference in the cafeteria. “I think having lunch monitors reminding students to recycle has had the biggest impact as students can no longer turn a blind eye and simply walk away from their trash; they are literally told face to face to throw their waste away,” the cabinet members of the Environmental Club said in an e-mail interview.

All the changes being implemented in the cafeteria have been made to create a safer and more eco-friendly atmosphere for students to use during their frees and lunch period. However, in order for these changes to be effective, both students and faculty members must equally contribute toward improving the cafeteria.