Local News

Wake High School Juniors Will Get To Leave Campus For Lunch

Posted March 10, 2005 9:24 a.m. EST

— A right of passage for high school seniors looks like it could be a permanent privilege for juniors as well. Wake County School Board members said it is a matter of dealing with a traffic jam in the parking lot or in the cafeteria.

Robert Foss, of UNC Highway Traffic Research, said students going to lunch can be a dangerous situation.

"I wouldn't characterize them as bad drivers. I would characterize them as inexperienced drivers and therefore, risky drivers," Foss said.

Wake County School Board Member Amy White initially had concerns about allowing juniors to leave for lunch like seniors do. Her concerns centered on safety, but now she feels the school system does not have a choice.

"I'm looking at the growth in Wake County and the inevitability that we don't have the space on campus to house all the students in one lunchroom," she said.

For example, Millbrook High School's cafeteria can seat 1,260 students over three lunch periods. However, the school has more than 2,000 students and lunch already starts at 10:30 a.m.

"I need it to stay the way it is right now. I need a larger lunchrrom with more lunch lines and seating," Principal Dana King said.

King said allowing juniors to leave for lunch is not a problem. The alternative, she thinks, is more dangerous.

"Overcrowdedness in a cafeteria is probably less safe. Nerves are frayed. People push to get food," she said. "I would argue that having an overcrowded cafeteria on a daily basis would create more difficulties."

The policy varies from school to school, but students have to earn the right to leave for lunch and their parents have to approve of it.

At least 53 accidents have been reported at Wake County schools during the lunch period this school year. The numbers are not complete, but the school system said that at least eight of those accidents involved juniors.

Six schools have reported no accidents. Millbrook is one of them. Apex High School had the highest numbers, reporting 20 accidents since last fall.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Durham schools also allow seniors to eat lunch off campus with parental permission, but that privilege can be revoked if abused. No high school students may leave campus for lunch in Chatham, Johnston and Orange counties.