Students served variety of new lunch protocols at Watertown High
Social distancing, eating alone, and QR codes make for a radically different cafeteria experience
January 6, 2021
This year, in no doubt, has been challenging. Now with Watertown High School back open for students, the administration is constantly finding ways to keep the students and faculty safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the ways WHS is social distancing is in the cafeteria.
Lunches are much quieter than usual due to the distance between tables. Lunches are available for free for all students, given that some families are struggling financially this year. Tables all spread out all the way through the Tri Area and the hallway in the gym. Having school being open for almost two months now, the students were asked to share their feelings about the new lunch protocols.
Each table is 6 feet apart with only one person per table. The students are also required to wipe their tables before going back to class and after they are finished eating.
“It feels safe,” WHS junior Theresa Cabral said, while discussing one positive from the new lunches.
Sophomore Emily Triantafilles said, “It’s quiet and peaceful.”
The students can sit and enjoy their lunch without having the unnecessary distractions from a non-socially distanced cafeteria.
WHS junior Nathan Theodore said that he, “Can’t really think of one [positive takeaway] compared to normal lunch.” He went on to say, “It’s hard to socialize with your friends.”
With the positives of having a socially distanced lunch comes the negatives. Emily said, “Taking off my mask is uncomfortable.”
Theresa said, regarding this topic, “You can’t talk that well to your friends and face each other.”
When discussing what the school should look into in order to make lunches more enjoyable, Nathan said, “I think that you should be allowed to change the direction of your seating.”
Emily said, “Maybe open more windows.”
Not only do the students have opinions about the lunch changes, but the faculty also had something to say about it.
Dean of students Brain Brewer explained the process of creating a safe environment for everyone during lunches.
“The design was a lot of work making the QR codes and setting up the tables that are spread apart. Kareem Mimms in the main office was a huge help with creating and managing the QR codes. Mr. [Adam] Joyce helped me to set up the tables. The fact that we had to use other spaces like the Tri and the gym was challenging since it was new.
“Figuring out how to clean tables in between lunches was a little difficult. We had to get a safe disinfectant for students to wipe down their own tables and ask the students to wipe down the tables. But the students have been fantastic with following all of the protocols that we have put in place. They willingly clean the tables and say, ‘Thank you,’ when we pass out the cleaning wipes! Our students are the best!”
Mr. Brewer went on to talk about what he believes is working well in the cafeteria.
“The distancing and the cleaning of tables,” he said. “Also the fact that the lunches are free for all students allows the line to move quickly.”
When talking about what he thinks is not working as well, he responded, “Nothing to do with the COVID protocols, but the cafeteria is so quiet. Not that I want yelling and screaming or food fights, but it really is muted. I can not really complain, because they are doing exactly what we have asked of them.”
Mr. Brewer also talked about how he thinks the school has been handling the entire situation so far.
“I would say the same as we have done for all of this ‘new normal.’ We have made the best out of an awful situation,” he said. “It helps that everyone — students, teachers, cafeteria workers — are all on the same page and have cooperated to make this work as safely as possible.
“I think it is as safe as it can be given the circumstances.”
Mr. Brewer also mentioned what could the students and staff benefit from in lunches.
“Maybe we can play music or trivia during lunch to liven it up a little,” he said.
Watertown High School staff and students have definitely managed to make a terrible situation into something that does feel so terrible. Even though the lunches are not the same as they were in past years, the students and faculty still are able to feel at home.
–Jan. 5, 2021–
Anna Vrahliotis is a member of the Raider Times staff.