‘Lunch bunch’ cooks up calmer cafeteria time for kids

Conneaut Principal Jim Lang talks about the "lunch bunch" with some of the volunteer parents present.


BG Independent News


Elementary school cafeterias can be chaotic places. Kids tend to let loose in the unstructured environment after spending the morning at their desks.

So Conneaut Elementary cooked up the idea for the “lunch bunch.” The program creates a calmer cafeteria while adhering to the school’s commitment to stressing positive behaviors, according to Principal Jim Lang.

The program started with parents being invited to come in and spend lunchtime with their children. That helped, but Lang knew the program could be even better. So parents were asked to spend lunchtime with more children – up to all six lunch periods.

“It really has taken off this year,” Lang said to the board of education Tuesday evening.

The Conneaut “lunch bunch” includes Sara Meyer, Jane Fawcett, Katie Burris, Jessica Lincoln and Jamie Alt.

The parents are helpful in several ways, the principal said.

First, they help little fingers open up tricky food packaging.

“Gogurt is one of the worst things to open,” Lang said. Then there are those fruit cups that are full to the brim, and juice boxes that “squirt all over” when the straw is stuck in.

They help students in line for lunch with condiments – and try to help keep the line moving, especially when the menu includes something popular like pizza.

Second, the parents have formed positive relationships with the students – by being helpful and engaging them, not just telling them to keep the noise down.

“They have started building relationship with students,” Lang said. “It’s about talking with children, finding out what’s going on.”

Instead of clapping hands to quiet the children, the “lunch bunch” uses harmonicas – an idea used by some of the teachers at Conneaut. They also use wireless microphones and headsets, purchased by the PTO.

“They don’t have to raise their voice, they don’t have to yell,” Lang said.

Just having parents in the lunchroom changes the dynamics, the principal said.

“If an adult comes in the room and sits down, the demeanor changes,” he said.

And third, the parents help clean up between lunch periods. They grab brooms and dustpans, and wipe down tables.

The cafeteria staff is very appreciative, Lang said.

“It’s very nice having them in the building.”

Board member Ginny Stewart thanked the parents for their volunteerism.

“I think it’s terrific what you’re doing,” she said. “It’s commendable.”

In other business, the board learned that another successful Fifth Grade Camp has been completed. All the students attended, regardless of their ability to pay, thanks to several donations from people in the community.

“It’s with the generosity of people donating,” that allows all the fifth graders to participate, Stewart said. The cost to send students to camp is $216 per student, with the school foundation picking up $10 per student this year.

Stewart added that there are many ways for the community to be involved in helping students – either by volunteering or by donating to programs.

“There are ways you can give back to the schools,” she said.

Also at the school board meeting:

  • Superintendent Francis Scruci reported that Veterans Day assemblies were held at the schools.
  • At Scruci’s request, the board agreed to release students a day early for winter break, on Dec. 20, so district-wide training for staff on ALICE (active shooter response training) can be held on Dec. 21.
  • The board learned from Scruci that vaping is becoming an increasing problem with students. The superintendent expressed his concerns that the risks of vaping aren’t fully known, and the students may be taking big risks.
  • Scruci reported a bus safety meeting will be held on Friday with transportation directors in the area and State Senator Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green. The group will discuss the possibility of seeking stiffer penalties for motorists who don’t comply with state laws requiring drivers to stop for buses picking up students.
  • The board learned from Scruci that installation of ballistic shields on middle school windows has begun.

Student athletes attending the board meeting were Macy Hanus, Kyle Jackson, Jayden Barton and Max Fausnaugh.

Several students were recognized for their athletic accomplishments this fall. They were Isaac Elsasser, Macy Hanus and Brennin Gray-DuVall in golf; Audrey Lerch in soccer; Abby Ray in volleyball; and Kyle Jackson, Jayden Barton and Max Fausnaugh in football.