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15 Minute Lunch Update -Parents Continue to Struggle to Achieve Adequate Time to Eat Lunch at Trinity

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15 Minute Lunch Update -Parents Continue to Struggle to Achieve Adequate Time to Eat Lunch at Trinity

November 29, 2008 - 20:42
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New Rochelle Community Pulse has received an update on the 15 Minute lunch at Trinity Elementary School. Here is the story to date:

Parent Leader sends follow up letter to Dr. Weiss' first reply:

After I sent the letters with 129 signatures and received Dr. Weiss' first reply letter, I sent Dr. Weiss a follow-up letter. Attached here.

Parent Leader states:

I felt Dr. Weiss misread the study that I had included and misinterpreted children throwing out food as being done.

This is a summary of a phone call the Parent Leader received from Dr. Weiss. (Frankly the tone and content seems a little creepy, but lets go with it):

Dr. Weiss telephoned me at work. She reiterated that 15 minutes was enough time for lunch and, in an effort to explain, said that she asked to have my son pointed out to her group when they did a site visit to the cafeteria. She said my son was "social", possibly implying that he was talking too much to have time to eat. (My husband and I were uncomfortable with the focus being on our son, the letter was signed by 129 parents.)

I persisted and said that 15 minutes is not enough for lunch and needed her assistance so that no school in the district would ever have to face 15 minute lunches (or even less time) in the future.

When I said that I would be satisfied with having the lunch period extended for next year, she said that was reasonable and would participate in future discussions. I was relieved and grateful for that. She did say that I could consider moving if I was dissatisfied with the school. (I think the school is mostly good, my son is doing well in his classes and I think his teachers are doing a fine job, they are dedicated and enthusiastic. He likes his friends and the school is convenient. On the issue of time to eat
lunch, though, we think the children are being shortchanged.)

Weiss's Second Reply Letter
In a rather strange and rather bizarre but predictable move, the City School of New Rochelle District Medical Director, Adrienne Weiss, continues to defend the 15 Minute Lunch at Trinity Elementary School. Dr. Weiss' response is rather baffling since it contradicts recommendations by:

United States Department of Agriculture on "Goals for Other School-Based Activities" ,

American School Health Association on "Providing Adequate Time
to Eat School Meals"

1) Allocate adequate time for students to eat meals. Meal time should be counted from the time students begin to eat their meal and should not include time spent waiting in line. Adequate time is defined as at least 20 minutes of seat time for lunch, 10 minutes of seat time for breakfast, and allowing students with special needs appropriate amounts of time to accommodate their needs.

, and

The National Association of State Boards of Education on "Fit, Healthy, and Ready to Learn: A School Health Policy Guide"page 18.

EATING AS A POSITIVE EXPERIENCE. Students and staff shall have
adequate space to eat meals in pleasant surroundings and shall have
adequate time to eat, relax, and socialize: at least 10 minutes after
sitting down for breakfast and 20 minutes after sitting down for lunch.
Safe drinking water and convenient access to facilities for hand washing
and oral hygiene shall be available.

Go figure! Who cares, they are only South End Kids. As we learned over the summer (from a very credible primary source) a now retired City School District Leader would ask members of the Cabinet, (we paraphrase)"what do you care about those kids, they will never attend Harvard, they will never go to Yale".

Dr. Weiss states in her her response:

I am satisfied that the present lunch schedule at Trinity is working for our students.

Dr. Weiss said that she didn't want to reply in writing, but I am glad she did. I received the attached letter back from her, which is very positive and helpful.

Mr. McMahon's Lunch Study Committee is Created

At the last PTA meeting, Monday, November 24th, Mr. McMahon said that he and Mr. Briceno decided to set up a Lunch Study Committee.

Mr. McMahon sent me an email prior to the PTA meeting describing the idea.

Here is most of Mr. Mc Mahon's email:

.... at Mr. Briceño's suggestion we have decided to ask for a Committee to be formed to look at this issue, both short term and long term ...

I think the Committee will have three responsibilities:

1.) get together and visit the lunchroom to witness a fourth/fifth grade lunch half hour,

2.) discuss the history of the lunchroom schedule, scheduling particulars with the current schedule and a look at the future scheduling. (I envision this meeting taking place after school one day for about an hour.),

3.) make a short and long term recommendation to settle this issue to the best of our ability.

I suspect the best way to construct the Committee is to have about 10 people: 1 parent from each grade level, 1 or 2 parents who has experience with sending their children through the school already and two or so teachers and or assistants who might also have experience of sending their children through the school. Our goal is to help everyone understand the parameters of the current lunch schedule and seek feedback from a wide variety of parents to see exactly what we want to do; this is a decision that needs to be shared with many people since it directly affects children across the grade levels.

Again, I always want you to know I appreciate your dedication to Trinity Elementary School.

Summary of PTA Meeting where 15 Lunch was discussed:

At the PTA meeting Mr. McMahon explained the committee and a few parents (3, I think) agreed to participate. I will participate and know of a handful of moms that have already offered to attend a meeting and lunchroom tour. I still have to contact them again to confirm.

Note: The lunchroom tour was expanded from seeing the 4th and 5th grade lunch to include seeing all grades. Some grades may have minutes taken away from their lunch.

Mr. McMahon said there was something like a second lunchroom that was converted to classrooms. It did not have a kitchen and was too far from the current cafeteria to work out well. He said that he was asked by the district to find 4 more classrooms for the 2009/2010 year (to accommodate full day kindergarten, presumably) and seemed to indicate that adding a 2nd
cafeteria would be next to impossible now. He also said that the 15 minute lunch for 4th and 5th graders was not a new policy instituted in the last couple of years. Lunch changed to 15 minutes "in the 90s", he said.

He also explain a limitation in scheduling has to do with his instituting 90 minutes of uninterrupted block for literacy (English) and 90 minutes for math. Both 90 minute blocks for all grades are scheduled for the morning because that is the optimal time for these age groups to learn. (High School students can handle heavier topics after lunch.) With this 90 minute and 90 minute block (3 hours total), the first lunch group is locked into the 11:30am slot. Of course academics come first and I wouldn't want to tamper with these time blocks. I want all the students to be given every opportunity to succeed and this sounds fine.

What's next ...

If anyone is interested in participating in this committee, I welcome them! Email New Rochelle Community Pulse at: [email protected] and they will forward to Parent Leader. This has been a long process and I would hate to lose momentum now. Thanks to all of you who have supported the message and offered kind words and encouragement. I really appreciate it. Changes to the lunch schedule may start this year or next year. Whatever everyone decides.

There are 4 Comments

The Lunch Committee will convene on Friday, December 12th from 11:15am to 1:00pm.
More members are welcome. Contact the Parent Leader or Gloria Viscome, PTA Co-President, for more information.

I understand that there is a conflict of time to accommodate a given number of students. But can't you all figure it out? How are other schools dealing with these schedule lunch conflicts? The wheel does not have to be reinvented.

Also, I hope there are no students with eating and/or swallowing issues in a 15 minute lunch period. ASHA is a reputable organization and they stand firm by their statements which are based on evidence based-peered reviewed research.

The lunch committee did meet on Friday, December 12th at Trinity and witnessed the 4th (15 mins), 5th (15 mins), and 3rd graders (30 mins) lunch in the cafeteria. Pizza was on the menu.

The committee then continued the meeting in the tv studio at school.

The parent participation and school staff participation was excellent. People were in a problem solving mode and the team felt free to offer their observations and suggestions.

The student lunch periods went suprisingly smoothly. The children seemed happy and interacted properly during lunch. There was no pushing, yelling, or unpleasantness. The lunch room monitors (I believe there were 7 of them) were polite, friendly, and seemed to do their jobs well. There were no "one minute left" and "four minutes left" announcements.

There were areas of concern and suggestions however. Members of the commitee will now put their thoughts down in writing and submit them as a group with recommendations. This is in an effort to extend the lunch period for the 4th and 5th graders for next year without breaking the school budget.

Thanks to all who participated and continue to participate.

The next Lunch Committee meeting is this Friday, February 6th at 12:00pm at Trinity.

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