Elmira City parents speak out against students’ 16-minute lunch period

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ELMIRA, NY (WETM) – Parents in the Elmira City school district are speaking out about what some are calling unreasonable lunch periods. The school’s schedule allots 16 minutes between classes for lunch.

“He said he put his two small pancakes his two sausages in his hand and headed off down the hall eating his pancakes and sausage,” said Bethany Wheelock, recalling what her son, who goes to Ernie Davis Academy Middle School, told her.

Students at Ernie Davis Academy Middle School receive 16 minutes for all lunch activities. This has forced kids like Wheelock’s son to eat their lunches while walking down the hall, or sometimes not at all.

“My granddaughters went to school, and often would come home not eating… Sometimes two or three times a week,” said Barbara Hostrander, grandmother of EDA students.

Those who buy lunch have to stand in line, buy their lunch, and eat their food, all in that 16 minute time period.

The complaint started as a Facebook post from Wheelock, and since then, it has gained a lot of traction. As of Wednesday, it has reached almost 200 shares.

Ernie Davis Academy released a statement saying, “We are aware of the social media story regarding the lunch period at Ernie Davis Academy. Our EDA principal issued a communication today to our families encouraging them to contact the school with their questions or concerns.”

The principal of the middle school contacted Wheelock and told her it was not an issue for other kids. The principal offered to give Wheelock’s son extra time for lunch.

“So she said that she was willing to give my son extra time… but that’s not fixing the problem for all the other kids in the school that are not getting lunch,” said Wheelock. 

Other parents chimed in on Facebook saying they had to start making lunch for their kids because the lines to buy lunch were too long. One parent, Whitney Prunier, is a working mother and told 18 News that she now has to spend extra time in the morning making her daughter’s lunch.

“I really have to take another 15-20 minutes out of my morning to make her lunch now… Before, I would get home and she would tell me she’s starving… So I just took on the initiative myself to make sure she was getting food during the day,” said Prunier. “It’s a shame for families who don’t have the luxury at home to add to their budget or rely on these free and reduced lunches… I am lucky to not have to worry about finances so she will be taken care of.”

By law, employees get more time on their breaks than these students.

“In New York, employees are entitled to lunch hours of at least 30 minutes for every six hours,” said Rick Ostrove, an attorney with Leeds Brown Law, P.C. “It seems kind of crazy that students would be expected to concentrate for six hours straight on a 16-minute lunch period.”

This 16-minute lunch period is not a new policy. The students have a 22-minute student advisory period right before lunch. This is what parents are advocating to replace with a longer lunch period.

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