Student should be able to get food off campus

Principal Dr. Betsy Bockman sounded onto the announcements on Feb. 1 to inform the student body that the administration plans to build a fence around the campus to both prevent students from leaving campus during school hours and improve security. While the administration should work to create a safe campus, it should also allow students to leave campus for lunch.

Currently, students caught leaving school during lunch can be penalized with a mandatory parent conference, detention or even a court hearing.  However, it isn’t a rare occurrence to see groups of students walking toward their cars at lunch or eating a warm Cookout burger in fourth period. The school’s restrictions evidently don’t prevent people from leaving to get food. Some students choose not to return to school after leaving for lunch because sneaking back in increases their risk of being caught. If the school sanctioned off-campus lunch, it would encourage kids to come back to school and attend class.

The administration may be concerned about its inability to ensure kids are safe when they leave campus, but many students already leave for lunch anyway, so sanctioning off-campus lunches would actually allow the administration to better protect those who leave. The school could inform parents if their child has not returned to school by the end of lunchtime and could require students to record their restaurant destination as another safety precaution.

A large portion of students regularly eat lunch in the courtyard. However, cold temperatures, rainy weather and the appearance of our resident campus opossum push the students inside for lunch. When this happens, students have to choose between two lunch venues: the library, where we are not allowed to eat, or the crowded cafeteria. A third option of off-campus lunch would alleviate cafeteria congestion and ensure students can actually eat lunch during lunchtime.

Many students have dietary restrictions for religious or health reasons. Though the cafeteria offers a vegetarian option for each meal, it does not provide food for students who observe Kosher or Halal or have food intolerances. Additionally, school meals are not always especially nutritious. For example, according to the Atlanta Public Schools website, seven of the 15 vegetarian meals our cafeteria planned to serve in February 2018 were forms of cheese pizza. Students with dietary restrictions can bring lunch from home, but they should have the option to buy food off-campus if they forget their lunch or don’t have time to make it. With the current lunch policy, some students spend their classes distracted by hunger due to their inability to eat cafeteria food.

Students at other Atlanta high schools often tell me that they envy Grady’s location in Midtown and wish they could have such easy access to Piedmont Park, the BeltLine and the host of restaurants near our school. Unfortunately, busy schedules and dependence on school buses for transportation render many Grady students unable to take full advantage of our unique location. I rarely have time to eat out during the week and tend to go to restaurants located in my friends’ neighborhoods on the weekend. Allowing students to dine at local restaurants would strengthen the bond between Grady and the Midtown community and better allow students to appreciate our surroundings.

The administration should also consider variations on a totally open campus during lunch. For example, they could only offer off-campus lunches to students who are 18 or older. It is ridiculous that we are permitted to sign out during instructional time but can’t miss our lunch period. Allowing seniors to eat lunch elsewhere would open up space in the cafeteria and let students enjoy Midtown before they graduate.