Two Lunch Blocks: A School Divided

There is nothing quite as memorable from Freshman year as the every-man-for-himself, mad dash to the cafeteria on the first day of school. If you were lucky enough to get a table on the first day, you had custody over it for the rest of the year, with virtually no exceptions. I remember the bell ringing at the end of block two, the release of a surge of students towards the cafeterias, like the shotgun at the beginning of a race. I was one of the students that scrambled over other kids to get a table in the freshmen cafe, and let me tell you, it was a terrifying experience. 

Now I’m a junior, and the lunch situation this year isn’t even comparable: the two lunch blocks have given a sense of security in terms of seating. I haven’t seen anyone sitting on the floor, in the bathroom, or along the hallways like two years ago. In fact, the Commons is packed with juniors, which would have been unprecedented a few years ago – it is practically impossible to picture the cafeterias with the entire student population. In terms of solely the number of students, the two block lunch is extremely less stressful. 

However, a few of my best friends are in the other lunch group, and I don’t have any classes with them; lunch is my only time to be around them, and that was taken away from me – and many other students – this year.

While I am lucky to be surrounded by my other great friends, I still wonder what conversations I’m  missing out on, and I imagine our normal lunch from freshman year when we were all sitting together. 

Nevertheless, the two block lunch has made me branch out and sit with other friends. We are still early into the school year, but it has been a pleasant experience to get to know other people better. I am a very extroverted person, and still have many close-knit friendships to indulge in in my specific lunch blocks. I imagine the two block lunch would be a hard adjustment for those who are shy and have a hard time being with others that they don’t know well. 

A divided lunch also limits the underclassmen in terms of who they can sit with. Personally, freshman year lunch was the time I experimented with lunch tables and decided who I wanted to spend my time with, and unfortunately, the underclassmen this year are missing out on the opportunity to branch out. While being secluded within certain cafeterias makes sense with COVID concerns, people who normally would float between tables at lunch are now limited to one area for the entire block. 

Regarding COVID – the reason for the separate lunches – I think the two block lunch was the best way to split up the student body and to slow the spread of the virus, while still keeping lunch in the schedule. The school administrators have been doing an exemplary job of preventing the movement between cafeterias, as well as reminding students that masks should be worn at tables when students have finished eating. Albeit, some students still walk around the cafeteria with their masks down, which can hinder the school-wide efforts to limit the spread of Covid. Despite this, I have seen more administrators and teachers cracking down on masks that are falling below noses, and students who don’t wear masks at all during lunch. 

With all that being said, I believe Hunterdon Central has been successful thus far with their effort to maintain the main social part of the school day, as lunch is the time when students are able to have an intermission between classes, and talk to their peers. No one has been excluded from the effects of COVID, and while we are not back to normal yet, the two-block lunch is a step in the right direction. Hopefully the two-block lunch is not the norm for the rest of my time at Hunterdon Central, but it beats not having lunch any day.