KISD board votes to end long tradition of high school students leaving for lunch

Published: Jun. 14, 2022 at 11:08 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - After a long discussion during Tuesday night’s school board meeting, KISD Board of Trustees ultimately voted to close high school campuses during lunch, with the only exception for seniors with certain academic standing and permission from parents.

“Open campus lunches is not a best practice. Its just not,” Superintendent John Craft said during the meeting.

“We are an anomaly. This is not a common practice across the state.”

He says he has been proposing ending open lunch periods for the last decade, but the issue of space in the high schools has always been an issue. Craft says with the opening of a new high school next year, the district has the best opportunity to close campuses.

“This is truly about safety this is about protecting students,” Craft explained to the board Tuesday night.

He says a number of safety issues have him concerned including traffic issues. Craft says students exiting school in masses have caused multiple accidents including ones where lives were lost.

“For ten years I have been sending videos of students crossing 5 lane roads,” board member, JoAnn Purser added. She ultimately voted in favor of the recommendation to close campuses during lunch.

“Fighting occurs in eating establishments, so our police department is having to respond along with KPD and Harker Heights PD to handle those situations,” Craft said. “In other cases students are leaving and coming back under the influence.”

While the recommendation ultimately passed, board members expressed some concern with keeping all students on campus during lunch considering current cafeteria capacities and student body sizes.

“Its going to be difficult for the numbers to work particularly at Shoemaker and Harker Heights high school,” Craft said.

He says they are implementing new practices that move students away from a traditional lunch schedule with food lines and cafeteria seating. He and other KISD employees explained new systems using kiosks and to-go meals for students to grab their food and leave the traditional lunch setting to eat.

In some cases Craft says teachers could have to open classrooms for students to eat in. The board also considered improving courtyards at some campuses to serve as outdoor eating locations for students.

“We have had to really look at some unique scheduling,” Craft said.

Other board members raised concerns about current meal options for students and the quality of food being offered. The districts head of school nutrition says the district meets several benchmarks set by the state in terms of the food it offers.

Another suggestion of offering students the ability to have food delivered or food trucks parked nearby has nipped in the bud when district officials said it would lose more than $17 million in state funding toward its nutrition program.

While logistics are still worked out, Craft continued to express that student safety needed to be the priority.

“I think its time to ensure we do everything we can to keep our kids safe by closing the campus.”

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