SMART Lunch, our never-ending blessing

The Leesville cafeteria is a large commonplace for students that stay on campus to eat lunch. Those that are not required to stay for check-in gather here often. This is also where the infamous peaceful protest against SMART Lunch ending was held in the 2016-17 school year. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Gore)

At Leesville, SMART (Students Maximizing Achievement with Resources and Time) Lunch is one of the highlights of each day. For an hour after third period, all students have the freedom to eat lunch, attend clubs, visit classes for teacher assistance, and play intramural sports.  

My freshman year at Leesville was a time of major controversy about SMART Lunch and the effect it has on the school. The year began with A and B lunch, where students were free to take care of what they needed for 53 minutes.  All students were required to visit their classes and receive help or complete makeup work, but the turnout just wasn’t enough to prove that the schedule was effective.

Students were expected to use their mobile phones to scan a QR code that was located in their classroom for lunchtime and fill out a Google Doc explaining where they were and what they were doing. A couple months of the 2016-2017 school year passed and SMART Lunch attendance rates continued to drop. By winter, less than 10% of the school was utilizing our gift from Dr. Muttillo that most high schools in Wake County don’t have.

After multiple warnings from administration, the Leesville staff made an announcement that the high school would discontinue SMART Lunch and instead transfer to an A, B, C schedule, like many other Wake County high schools. I was personally not as surprised as others that our privilege had been revoked, but it still was upsetting to hear.

From then on, we would have about 30 minutes for lunch, but the school was split up into three different times for release from third period. Your lunch period was decided by the last name of your third period teacher, so there was a risk that you wouldn’t see your friends during lunch anymore. This was extremely intimidating as a freshman new to the Leesville community and I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would go about my free time at school.

Immediately after the announcement, students and parents both took to the Internet and social media to express their feelings. Many were displeased with the decision so they formed petitions and planned a silent sitting protest for the next morning in the cafeteria. My first thought was to text all the friends I could think of and try to coordinate who to eat with. Feelings of relaxation set in when I was told that I had B lunch with most of the group of friends I normally ate with. Unfortunately, it wasn’t this way for all students.

In the morning, many Leesville attendees attempted to earn SMART Lunch back in a myriad of ways. Social media and the cafeteria protest were two of the largest sources. Fortunately, the administration was forgiving and generous enough to offer students a second chance.

The next day after school, SMART Lunch was reinstated–under a couple new conditions.

SMART Lunch 2.0 was and still is the savior to Leesville students’ lunchtime. After third period, all students are required to report to “check-in”, where teachers review which of their students need to stay for the first half of lunch and complete work or make up quizzes and tests. Teachers also record attendance of all students.

Not only does this bring back a large period of time for all students to use to their advantage, it highly enforces the use of SMART Lunch. Since the reinstatement and upgrade of the schedule, the attendance has greatly increased. Students feel more motivated to finish their work and the overall result is nothing but positive.

“I think that SMART Lunch last year was more of a recommendation than something the teachers enforced. Many students didn’t want to take time out of their lunch to go back to a class and do work. When check in started, it made me think about my grades more and want to keep them up,” said Josh Bellue, a sophomore at Leesville.

As well as impacting the Leesville community, the change to lunchtime has positively affected me. I now have a reminder of what I need to get done and a strong sense of accomplishment when I’m able to walk out of the designated check-in class at the bell. Many other students have developed an appreciation for the upgrade as well.

“As a student at Leesville the new SMART Lunch has improved my studying habits…since I have to stay, it makes me more motivated to do my work. I think that changing the schedule helps students to stay more on top of their work,” said Hannah Bond, a sophomore at Leesville, via text.

Recently, students have been abusing the privilege of a long lunch by causing trouble and forcing administrators to get involved. Physical fights are the largest proponent of the nuisance and it’s extremely upsetting to see that students are taking what we have been given for granted.

While there is still work to be done to completely fulfill the potential of SMART Lunch, the staff at Leesville have been extraordinarily accommodating. Continuing to enforce the use of the schedule and increasing student attendance to classes only builds the community.

With SMART Lunch 2.0, the Leesville community continues to see improvement and encouragement across the board of students. As a student at LRHS, I can definitely say that the enforcement of hard work will continue to bond and strengthen the students of my school.


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