Open campus lunch isn’t feasible right now but isn’t considered impossible



The full FHC parking lot

In all the years that FHC has been around, having an open campus lunch has never been a serious consideration. Although, Principal Steve Passinault admits that the discussion has come up a few times within his ten years of working here.

“I get asked about [open campus lunch] quite often,” Passinault said, “but [the questions are more like], ‘hey, why don’t we have this?’ But never has there ever been a push of a groundswell of students or parents who have wanted it.”

The time set for lunch at the high school is currently 30 minutes, and this is one of the biggest barriers between students and an open campus lunch.

“We have a short lunch period,” Passinault said. “When you talk about the safety and liability [issues] of students leaving campus, rushing to a restaurant to get food, and rushing back, there’s potential for safety issues. If we had a longer period of time [for lunch], I think the majority of students would be able to handle it and be back on time.”

The discussions surrounding this type of lunch have been brief and pretty non-existent. However, this policy isn’t something to punish the students.

“It’s not that we wouldn’t trust the students to be back,” Passinault said. “I mean, just like in college, students can go [out to eat] but just have to be back [in time] for classes. There are natural consequences if students are tardy or late for a class; you’d lose credit for that class period if you were considered unexcused.”

The rush of trying to maneuver through other high schoolers fighting for off-campus lunch as well can cause time issues and risks that the district is not willing to take. 

Other schools, East Grand Rapids in specific, have a different scheduling situation that allows students easy access to the elements needed for open campus lunch, unlike Forest Hills.

“Some of the schools [that] I know [who] have open campus lunch have a longer time for their lunch period,” Passinault said. “East Grand Rapids has kind of a unique schedule in my understanding—it’s almost like [a] 45 [minute] or an hour-long lunch period. I think in their community, they have a number of restaurants that are within walking distance from the high school.”

The short answer as to why an open campus policy has not been implemented in Forest Hills is due to time constraints and the community we live in. Even if only a third of FHC went off campus for lunch, this would cause major lines in nearby restaurants and could also lead to traffic congestion. 

“[In] Central, Northern, and Eastern [high schools],” Passinault said, “typically, we all try to follow the same policies. I think of Eastern, for example, and I think [of] Northern too—the settings of our schools are not near lots of restaurants, and that would create problems.”

Despite forbidding students to go off campus to get some variety for their lunch, Passinault is open to bringing more options to the school. 

“One thing that we might be able to do more of and that I’d certainly be open to,” Passinault said, “is bringing in food trucks and things like that maybe once a month to give students more options for food.”

This addition could appease some students who crave more variety in their lunchtime, and junior Ryan Fitzgerald is in agreement. 

“People can get whatever [food] they want [if we had open campus lunch],” Ryan said. “Usually, the school is super cut about [serving] the same things over and over every day. A lot of kids don’t bring lunches, so if they had the opportunity to go places, they could enjoy being out to lunch with their friends.”

Despite his wishes to explore lunch options off of campus, Ryan, like most students, is able to understand the reasons behind why an open campus lunch is just not feasible right now within the timeframe and location of the school. 

“People [may] not come back to school [after eating lunch],” Ryan said. “I can see that happening.” 

Freshman Taylor Greemann is also very cognizant of the issues surrounding open campus lunch. She keeps the timing issue in mind and is also in agreement that the idea doesn’t really fit within the school day currently.

“[Closed campus lunch] is more reasonable because of the time [issue],” Taylor said. “You’d need more time for [an] open campus lunch. If you want the school day over sooner, then you’d probably want a closed campus lunch.”

Taylor isn’t truly craving an opportunity to go to lunch off-campus, although, she thinks it could be nice once in a while.

“[Open campus lunch] would be nice,” Taylor said. “I’ve thought of it before if [I] didn’t [bring] as good of a lunch [that day]. There [are] just more options [if you go out to lunch].”

I’ve never had an open campus lunch—there’s nothing to compare it to.

— Taylor Greemann

Most FHC students don’t have anything to compare their lunchtime to, and therefore can’t imagine anything else besides the closed campus lunch that they’re used to. 

“I’m fine with staying in [school for lunch],” Taylor said. “I’ve never had an open campus lunch—there’s nothing to compare it to.”

Due to the current logistics of locations and schedules of FHPS, open campus lunch is not the safest way to execute the lunch operations right now. However, Passinault isn’t completely shutting down the idea; it would just take a large amount of time and planning to pull it off. 

“I would never say never,” Passinault said. “It’s one of those things [that] depends on how enrollments fluctuate up and down. If we were ever to have a situation where we had fewer numbers of students we might get a chance to do that and create a [longer] lunch period.”