Students Maximizing Achievement Relationships and Time. That’s the acronym for SMART Lunch, an extended lunch period developed by Rodney C. Nelson, Panther Creek principal. Schools around Wake County have implemented this idea, such as Wakefield, Sanderson, Athens Drive, Panther Creek and Green Hope.
SMART Lunch is dedicated to maximize students’ and teachers’ time in the day. Instead of staggering three 35 minute lunches like we do currently here in Leesville, there is one hour long lunch. During this time, students can choose from a variety of options. They can go off campus, go to a class for extra help, eat in the cafeteria, go to the gym to play sports, or eat in other places around the school.
Club meetings, make up work, and more individualized help for students could all be done during this time. Not all students have the time or transportation to stay after school for such things.
Many students, particularly upperclassmen, would be ecstatic with this lunch. That extra time would be better suited for them, so that students going off campus don’t have to speed to get back to school on time. Also, those with other things to do after school, (taking care of younger siblings, jobs, etc.) can have extracurriculars during school.
Another benefit is simply the extra time that the extended lunch provides. While it would cancel Pride Period, few students use those 20 minutes for educational purposes. “If we can extend lunch by 25 minutes and get some benefit out of that, it’s worth considering,” said Dr. Mutillo, Leesville’s principal.
The benefits are not limited to students. Teachers from the same department would have a day every week to plan during lunch, thus accomplishing what they need to do during school time as opposed to having to stay late after school. Faculty wouldn’t have to clean the cafeteria 3 times a day.
The biggest hurdle to implementing SMART lunch is space. Over 2,200 students going to lunch at one time could conjure up chaos. The cafeteria can only hold about 520 students. Even with the upperclassmen going off campus, there would still be a full cafeteria. If SMART lunch was implemented in Leesville, it would be up to the students to spread throughout the designated areas in the school.
Schools have found varying results after implementing SMART lunch. For example, Green Hope reported increased test scores from their students, while Knightdale High suspended the lunch due to fights.
However, Dr. Mutillo isn’t worried about misbehavior from Leesville students. “Our students are really good here,” Dr. Mutillo said. “I’m not worried about fights.”
Ultimately, SMART lunch has potential to be of great benefit to Leesville, as it has been to other schools. “I’m an advocate for considering it,” said Dr. Mutillo. “Everybody has to be on board with it: parents, teachers, and students.”