THEN: Woodcreek will start two lunch schedule in January

Originally Printed: October 12, 2004 by, Kiran Sidhu and John Gamboa

THEN%3A+Woodcreek+will+start+two+lunch+schedule+in+January

On Monday Sept. 21, emotions ran high as word spread of Principal Jess Borjon’s decision to switch to a two-lunch schedule. Though Borjon first presented his decision to a handful of teachers at the school’s Leadership Team meeting that morning, most of the staff and all students heard second hand when the surprising news sent shock waves across campus.

Borjon promptly scheduled a staff meeting to address the concerns of staff members and to explain the reasons behind his decision. Later in the week, he explained his decision to the students in a memo that was read during second period.

“As principal of Woodcreek High, I believe it is my fundamental responsibility to provide students and teachers with the best possible learning environment,” Borjon stated in the memo. “One element of establishing the best possible environment is addressing student safety at ALL times. It is with this in mind that we are moving forward with a plan to implement a two lunch schedule as soon as organizationally possible.”

The original plan was scheduled to take effect at the beginning of the second 9-week grading period on Oct. 11. In hopes of creating more time to dialogue and to make the transition smoother, many teachers volunteered their lunch hours to provide more comprehensive supervision at lunch, thus providing a temporary solution to supervision concerns.

Borjon responded to their offer with a second memo to staff and to students. He stated, “As a result of recent dialogue with some faculty, I’ve agreed to put-off the transition to two lunches until the the semester break (Jan. 4).” He stressed that this delay is only temporary and will not change his decision. “I must emphasize that our goal is to continue towards the implementation of a two-lunch system,” he said.

 

According to Borjon, there are many reasons why this action is being taken. “I think this will dramatically improve the safety of of the school during lunch. Although that is the driving purpose, the quality of food will improve along with time in line and general climate in terms of a more relaxed mood,” he said in a school newspaper press conference held Sept. 30.

 

“We also have a great opportunity to improve the trash that gets thrown around lunch. It’s really a great idea because it increases the visibility of staff and students.” Borjon stated.

Although this is Borjon’s belief, many Woodcreek students disagree. “I don’t necessarily like the idea; but knowing that i can’t do anything about it, it’s pointless to complain,” said senior Emily Dransfield.

 

“He could have gotten outside opinions, but it is his role to make decisions. It’s within his

position to make decisions to benefit the school if he thinks this will help Woodcreek,” she said.

 

English teacher Heather Schlaman said, “I think it will affect the students and their schedules for the upper level students and it will be a slight inconvenience for students not to be able to eat lunch with each other. It doesn’t personally affect me at all.”

 

“The intent was good, but the way of going about it was wrong,” said sophomore Jvani Cabiness. “Since there’s nothing we can do now,we have to support it and hope for the best.”

 

Borjon addressed his reason for not obtaining outside opinions. “You don’t vote on safety. In addressing school safety issues, you look at best practices. You go to experts. You don’t need a poll to do that,” he said.

 

These specific safety issues concern the increasing numbers of fights on campus. Already the number of fights in the first nine weeks has exceeded the total number of fights for the entire 2003-2004 school year.

 

On Sept. 18, there were two fights in the quad during lunchtime. What alarmed Borjon about the situation was the sheer amount of students who rushed to the fights. They created an unsafe mob and prevented administrators from reaching the fights, a situation which Borjon felt could not be dealt with in a safe and quick manner.

 

“What we see is the front line 2-3 feet deep tops. We don’t know what’s going on beyond that,” said Borjon, explaining how easy it is for administrators at lunch and get away with throwing objects such as water bottles.

 

“Now add to that a physical fight conflict. We can’t see because you are too thick. By cutting the population in half, you thin out the population so you can see them,” Borjon stated. “The likelihood of someone getting trampled is real.”

 

“In my job I risk every single day being sued for something. I’m not worried about that. What I’m worried about is the safety of student X. I couldn’t live with myself knowing I hadn’t done everything I could,” said Borjon.

 

Nonetheless some students believe Borjon should have at the very least consulted certain members of the Woodcreek team. “I think he should’ve consulted proper leadership teams and made decisions before school began or at the end of the school year,” said Cabiness. “Lunch time activities and club meeting won’t be able to meet at once. There’s going to be a separation.”

 

Other student government officials also expressed concern. “Being in student government, when we try to have stuff at lunch, we don’t know how we can do it with both lunches. We’ll be missing class,” stated Dransfield.

 

Cabiness believes that there might be one solution that would take the burden off after school meetings for clubs. “We should get an activity bus for after school because meetings are going to be after school. That way, students who normally would take a bus home can take a bus home after meetings,” she said.

 

Another possible solution to the two lunch change is hiring more campus monitors. Borjon addressed this solution. “It becomes a money issue. If we hire another five to seven school monitors, we’re already in the $100,000 plus range. It’s very costly. The reason schools go to two lunches is because you can get to the safety issue in a more cost-effective manner,” he said.

 

Faculty and students have presented many other alternatives to address the safety issue. One of these solutions has teachers serving as monitors during the lunch periods. Borjon is willing to try this for the rest of the semester, but sees it as only a temporary solution.

 

“Teaching is along the same lines as being a nurse or a pastor. It’s very service-oriented,” said Borjon. “That 30 minutes is huge in terms of recharging teacher’s batteries. In the end, teachers would be grumpier.”

 

“Please do not interpret the delay in transition as wavering in our desire to reach the safest environment possible for students,” said Borjon in his second memo to the faculty and students. “The fundamental rationale for the postponement of a two-lunch system is to provide for a smoother transition for both students and staff. We believe there are potential issues that can’t be addressed at this particular time,” said Borjon, referring to the school’s master schedule and a handful of other issues such as club meetings.

 

Social studies teacher and teacher’s union lead negotiator Laura Bullard is relieved that the original date for the transition has been pushed back to January. “I am happy about the postponement. It will allow time for students to adjust to it,” said Bullard. “It gives clubs time to try to figure out solutions to the problem. It gives time for us to dialogue.”

Bullard previously worked in a school that had multiple lunches. “Significantly, it affects clubs. The major complaint is testing and tutoring at lunch,” she said.

Roseville High School senior, Jasmyn Carr experienced the change from one to two lunches a few years ago. “I like it, but I didn’t like it before. There were a lot of people at lunch. Now you can focus more on people at one time; it is less crowded,” she said.

 

Carr explained how Roseville’s clubs fared in the transition. “Clubs had two meetings in different rooms. Some clubs were cancelled, some were not. A lot of people didn’t like it at first, now they like it; there are less people,” she said. When asked if she thought fights were a factor in changing to two lunches at Roseville she said, “I don’t think it has to do with the fights. Most of the fights happened during passing, it was just overcrowded.”

 

Some students even suggested that the two lunches be considered a warning, but Borjon has a problem with that idea. “After the news came out, students came up to me and said ‘We’re being good today and we’re being clean today.’ Here’s the problem with threatening: it’s reactionary. I can’t undo a serious incident that happens.”

 

Students remain most concerned about the club issue. Borjon stated, “The club situation is now open to suggestions. The standard answer I could give you is that the meetings can be held before and after school. Yes, this is possible; but it’s not desirable. Another is that we could have a co-advisors hip of clubs.” Several opinions are being considered, including occasional one day lunch days for rallies and club meetings.

 

When asked if he felt he made the decision too quickly, Borjon responded, ” I need to move as quickly as I can to create a safer situation. This has not been an easy thing for me in any way, shape or form; and I believe it’s the right thing.”

 

While most students are currently focused on the negatives of the transition, the change will bring some benefits. With half the amount of students to feed at one time, cafeteria lines will be shorter and new menu items will be added. “Students will have a salad bar option available for three dollars,” said Borjon. They will also have an option to purchase made-to-order sandwiches.

 

Despite the benefits, some students foresee a few problems. Besides the club meeting schedule, a major concern is that students may ditch class in order to be with their friends during lunch. “I don’t think we’re going to have a problem with students leaving class to see their friends in the first and second lunches. As teachers adjust to their students, they get good radar of who really is going to the bathroom and who isn’t,” said Borjon.

 

Like it or not, the two lunch transition will occur in January. Although there are some students and faculty who remain completely against the decision, Borjon strongly believes it’s the right thing to do. “People have such deep rooted, negative perception of two lunches. I can’t shake people from experiencing that,” he said.

“I agree that the two lunches are harder for everyone; I have no disagreements. I’m not arguing, but I am willing to work harder to be safer. That is my responsibility to the students, parents and community,” he said.

Kelly Smith contributed to research for this story.