The History of “Lunchtime” at West Portal has a New Chapter

Lunchtime looks different at West Portal this school year. Changes have been made in the protocols, structures and times of this most important time for students. With any change, concerns and questions have been raised. I want to clarify and respond to these but first, it may be helpful to begin with a little history of lunchtime at West Portal.

For the last few years, we (teachers and administration) have received a steady flow of concerns that students were not eating all of their lunch during lunchtime. With the exception of Kindergarteners, we attributed this to the fact that the students ate and played on the same yard. Aside from the Kindergarteners who were allotted 20 minutes to eat and then transitioned to yard 1 to play for 25 minutes, every other grade level had a designated yard to eat and play on.  Grades 1 ate on yard 3 and played on yard 3. 2nd and 3rd ate on yard 1 and 2 and played on yard 1 and 2. And 4th and 5th ate on yard 4 and played on yard 4. All the students in grades 1 through 5 had 15 minutes to eat and then were allowed to play for 30 minutes. Many were eating very little because they wanted to get up and play. Even with a requirement for students to eat before they were allowed to play, the temptation of the playground was causing students to end their eating time early by throwing out much of their lunch so that they could get to the playing earlier. 

This year we established an area for all students depending on grade level, where they eat for 20 minutes before they transition to a different “play” area. Kindergarteners and 1st graders eat in the cafeteria for 20 minutes and then transition to yard 3 to play. 2nd/3rd and 4th/5th eat on yard 1 at different times for 20 minutes and then transition to yard 4 to play.

This really supports students not rushing through their lunches during the eating time because they are not tempted to play since the play equipment and area is on a different yard. This new structure also allowed us to carve out time for 1st grade to eat in the Auditorium at the tables. 

We informed all teachers and students early on that if any student was not finished with their lunch during the designated eating time they could carry the rest of their lunch down with then to the designated play areas and finish eating on that yards benches. 

As with all changes there are kinks to the new schedule that have to be ironed out. We asked the Kindergarteners to show up 10 minutes early to the Auditorium so they could have additional time to get to their tables and open their lunches and still have ample time to eat. Also, we had to reinforce with teachers and students that they are allowed to bring their unfinished lunch to the play area yard and would be allowed to eat on the benches in that yard. 

The new schedule took some adjusting to, but seems to be working better as the school year has progressed. Students are getting additional time to eat their lunch and are being monitored more closely in the areas where they are eating.  We also have two hundred of our students (grades K and 1) eating their lunch at tables in the auditorium. Due to more structures around eating time, we have been able to better address individual concerns around eating and finishing lunches. The lunch duty supervisors continue to be cognizant of the need to reassure students that they can bring their unfinished lunch down to the play area yard. We have made sure there is a Trash, Recycling and Compost station in the play area for those students who finish their lunch in that area.

One of the main reasons for making the change to the new lunch schedule was to ensure students have enough dedicated time to eat their lunch and not be distracted by hunger in the afternoon. If you have concerns that your child is not eating enough for any reason during lunch recess please contact either Ms. Walter (walterc@sfusd.edu) or myself (luceyw@sfusd.edu) or call the school.