It has been two weeks since Nevada Union High School officially enacted a closed campus policy and began providing students with different lunch options on campus.
Students, faculty and community members seem to have different perspectives on the changes.
“I think it’s a mixed reaction,” NU Assistant Principal Kelly Rhoden said. “A lot of it is going to probably continue for these first couple of years because you’ve got the kids that have been here, and they’re used to being able to go off campus and doing those things. But it’s been great support from the community, I just know there’s the other side of it too, which is important.”
In June, NU Principal Dan Frisella announced that the school would be a closed campus, which would prevent students from going off campus during lunch.
According to Frisella, the change came after community members reported misconduct, such as theft and substance abuse, by students who go off campus during lunch and regular school hours.
In order to serve the more than 1,800 students that will be on campus throughout the year, the district hired Theresa Ruiz, formerly the Bear River High School food service coordinator, as the district’s new Director of Nutrition Services. Ruiz has since increased the number of lunch-time staff and serving stations in the main cafeteria and Ali Gym foyer, which serve a mix of scratch-cooking, grab-and-go snacks, and a la carte products.
Ruiz has also added a new salad bar, sandwich bar, and two new water bottle stations near the Ali and West gyms.
“We’ve made it through a couple weeks, we’ve tried a couple different menu items, but when we get it down to what they will stick with, we will be fine,” Ruiz said. “The whole idea is to keep the menu varied so that nobody gets too bored. I don’t want them to be discouraged because they have to wait in line so long, so we need to get that remedied also.”
Nevada Joint Union High School District Superintendent Louise Johnson said she recently had a staff lunch at NU, and says one of the challenges the school is facing is that certain meals and items have become so popular now that they are working to get a handle on how many lunches they need each day.
“The longest wait, I believe, was 12 minutes,” Johnson said. “But the food is very popular, so it’s all a matter of knowing the market, and figuring out which foods are the most popular, and I’m sure we will make those adjustments.”
NU senior Mo Nieves said the food selection has gotten better, but he says he has seen it take up to 25 minutes for some students to get through the lunch lines.
“They’ve doubled how many things you can eat,” Nieves said. “But there’s no vending machines, and you have to wait till lunch to get anything else for food unless you bring it from home, and then the line is horrible. That’s one of the worst things, because it doesn’t leave them much time to eat.”
Senior Caitlin Kelley, though, said she hasn’t had an issue with the lines.
“The food has improved immensely,” Kelley said. “I didn’t buy lunches at all last year, and now I buy lunches. But then again, I’ve never been a person who goes out to buy lunches, so I think it’s a good program that they’ve started.”
According to Ruiz, on average, more than 700 students buy full meals at lunch on a daily basis, and that is not including students that buy a la carte items that include pizzas, quesadillas and other grab-and-go products.
“Sometimes they’re afraid to try new things,” Ruiz said. “We’ll have a bunch of something left over, so we definitely have enough food to feed them, but if everyone just wants pizza, then we have to adjust to that. I have kids and I know I would hate to see them stand in line and say, ‘I stood in line this whole time because I wanted this particular salad,’ and it’s gone. So we’re going to try to put different items in different spots so that everyone gets a chance at everything.”
To help monitor the lines, administrators often help by directing students into which lines have the type of foods they are looking to buy. Daily food menus, and the locations of food items, are now posted online for students and parents.
Generally, all types of food selection are served in the main cafeteria, while a select few are distributed out of the Ali Gym.
Ashley Smith, 17, says the issue she has is not with the food, but with the closed campus.
“I enjoyed being able to get away from school and have 35 minutes to myself or with a few friends,” Smith said. “There are also times that I have had to run home to do something or go do some errands because I wouldn’t have time before work … I have to say that they have tried to improve the food and lunch options by bringing in a salad bar and improving the existing lunches, but I still feel like they are not what kids want.”
NU senior Jake Mcintire said the actual food being served at lunch has gotten a lot better, but says it isn’t what the school promised students.
“They dictate what I’m supposed to eat every day,” Mcintire said. “It seems like they’ve just opened up a salad bar and a sandwich bar. They promised us on the student congress last year they were going to bring food trucks in and all of that, but so far, two weeks into school and nothing like that has happened.”
Rhoden said the school is working to bring in more mobile food carts and food trucks to the school’s lunch, while also placing more picnic benches around campus for kids to eat and socialize.
Frisella added that since the closed campus, the school has not had one report of drug abuse during lunch.
Community member and former NU parent Sonia Britt says the closed campus should be turned into a positive for students who obey the rules.
“I really think NU should look into doing some kind of incentive,” Britt said. “Either the seniors get open campus and that’s what leads them up to their senior year, or they hand out passes for kids that get good grades or do something great. Have some kind of incentive that leads to an off-campus pass.”
Frisella said the school has definitely anticipated pushback on the closed campus but thinks it will pass in due time.
“It’s going to take a little breaking in for some of them, which is fine,” Frisella said. “A lot of students are really just saying things for the sake of saying things, because when we delve deeper in conversation with them, they end up coming around and telling us it’s really not that bad.”
To contact Staff Writer Ivan Natividad, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4236.