Fifteen minutes is all it takes to put the eyes of a student into the view of an administrator. Fifteen minutes that WFISD cut from every high school’s lunch time in order to compensate for new state legislation. House Bill 2610 aims to give school districts more leeway with scheduling.
“Sometimes I get to have lunch, sometimes I don’t. We’re always working during the lunch time. I brought a sandwich today so I’ll take 10 minutes to eat and then back to work. The administrators are eating lunch at their desk while they’re working because we’re pretty busy.” Dee Palmore, Principle of Rider High School said.
The 2016-17 school year started with upheaval by the student body as upper classmen were upset with the new lunch times. When asked if they agreed with the new lunch times, junior Dustin Irons said, “Most people don’t eat because they don’t have the time to.” He said, “I see a lot less people eating now. I work for JROTC during lunch, like help prepare uniforms for cadets, leaving me five minutes to eat now.”
When asked how the new lunch times have affected his players, Head Football Coach, Marc Bindel said, “We have to make sure we’re on point as far as getting them out on time. I’ve noticed that more kids have been in a hurry to get their lunch in. A few of them are just not even eating which when you have practice after school, that’s not good. It’s hard to practice on an empty stomach and so the shorter lunch times have definitely affected the way kids eat with their nutrition.”
The Texas Education Agency, or TEA, has posted a pdf of frequently asked questions for House Bill 2610. It stated the bill, “amends the Texas Education Code (TEC) §25.081, by striking language requiring 180 days of instruction and replacing this language with language requiring districts and charter schools to provide at least 75,600 minutes of instruction (including intermissions and recess).”
As a result of this mandate, during the 2015-16 school year, WFISD investigated swapping the start times of elementaries and secondary schools. The decision was never made due to the “staggered” bus routes which are also the cause of why the two school levels have different start and stop times. These staggered bus routes also prevents WFISD from doing what other school districts have done which is add 15 minutes to the end of their school days.
“What they did,” Palmore references WFISD’s School Board, “was crowd lunch just a little bit. They didn’t want to increase the day too much longer and the other reason is buses have to run at the elementary schools and so you have a fine line of making sure the secondary students get home before the elementary students do.” He continues, “Well most of your jobs only give you 30 minutes, and so that’s something reality is going to set in pretty quick for our juniors and seniors.”
Mr. Palmore explained that decisions have to be made that is for the overall picture, and then it affects a small situation such as the new lunch times and students leaving campus. When asked if students should be allowed to leave campus, Palmore states that students leaving campus helps the flow of the system as Rider deals with overcrowding and a lack of cafeteria workers.
He said, “There’s no reason for you not to eat. That’s their own choice if they’re doing that because you can get through the lines. Since the first days of school, we’ve had at least 15 minutes left when the last person’s gone through the line so there’s plenty of time for a student to eat.”
Palmore wants students to be aware of the overall picture and all the factors, including buses, elementary schools, state legislation as well as cafeteria workers and more. In taking 15 minutes from student’s lunch time, administrators on the School Board releases problems and questions within the district. Leaving the student body in debate for solutions for a more appropriate time to eat lunch without worry of hunger during sports or detention from 6th period tardies.
Coach Marc Bindel states, “That’s just part of the job. I’ll make up for it somewhere, I’m not going to starve.”