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Chester County Press

‘Lunch and Learn’ initiative starts at UHS

08/27/2019 03:36PM ● By J. Chambless

The HUB is a brand-new lunch option.

By JP Phillips

The first day of school brings new classes, new teachers, and new friends. This year, the Unionville High School experience includes another first -- a simultaneous, one-hour lunch block for all 1,400 students and their teachers.

In the past, lunch was 30 minutes long and done in three shifts between roughly 10:30 and noon.  Students typically spent that time eating and checking social media on their phones, with time for little else.

Now, students have a full hour between 10:27 and 11:27 a.m. called “Lunch and Learn.”  During this time, they can eat, socialize, collaborate on projects, use the gym or fitness center, study, do homework, and meet with teachers for questions and help. Director of Curriculum and Instruction, Tim Hoffman, said that student schedules will reflect either the first half or the second half of the hour-long block for “lunch” and the other half for “learn.” Teachers will be available during half of that time block for consultation and help. 

Teacher availability will be posted each day for both students and parents to see.  High school principal Jimmy Conley sees the teacher consult time as beneficial for not just the students, but parents as well.

“If my son’s struggling in English and [as a parent] I say, ‘Buddy, did you see your English teacher?’ Right now, he might say, ‘Dad, I have practice,’ or, ‘By the time the bus drops us off, I have to go directly to homeroom.’”  But since the teacher schedules are now public, Conley said that the parent can reply, “You’d better go see your English teacher. I see she’s available during Learn 2.”  No longer will parents have the sole option to drop off early or pick up late when a student-teacher consult is needed.

Every six days, teachers will have department collaboration time. Goals could include sharing best practices, integrating PSAT/SAT data to lesson goals, and coordinating curriculum pace.  According to Conley, no time was built into teachers’ schedules for this in the past. 

To make time for the extended lunch, homeroom has been eliminated and a few minutes were shaved from each class period. Attendance will be taken during first period, and announcements and any fire/safety drills will occur during the one-hour lunch.  School administration will monitor students and use walkie talkies, cell phones, and the all-building speaker system for communications.

Two new food purchase locations have been created so that all students do not have to buy lunch and eat in the cafeteria. The “HUB” is located in the gym lobby, and an expanded “Cyber-Café” is in the library lobby.  Additionally, new picnic tables with umbrellas have been purchased for three outdoor courtyards to provide additional seating.

This program has been in the planning stages for a long time.  A committee of teachers, administrators, students and parents was formed in late 2017 to investigate the concept.  It was approved by the board in June 2018 for commencement this school year. 

Conley worked with Harriton High School in Lower Merion Township, which is four years into a similar program, to discuss what works.  According to the May 2018 U-CF decision brief, three other schools implemented “Lunch and Learn,” with one abandoning the program after six years.

But the UHS administration is optimistic. 

“It’s really a win-win for all of us, the staff and the students.”  Conley said. “This is exciting, and not many schools are doing this, but we have the right students to do this.  I trust our students and I know they will do a great job, and I’m excited because I get out of my office an hour every day and talk to kids, which is the best.  We’re looking forward to it and we’re ready.”