Hot take: It’s time to ban upperclassmen from going off campus for lunch

November 6, 2023 — by Alan Cai
Photo by Alan Cai

The packed school parking lot during a school day.

Going off campus is detrimental to campus culture and school community.

When the bell rings for lunch time in a storybook high school, scores of hungry students flood into the cafeteria to enjoy a delicious meal alongside all of their peers.

At Saratoga High, freshmen and sophomores stay on campus, but many juniors and seniors flee off campus during those precious 30 minutes to buy fast food at Taco Bell, In-N-Out, or McDonald’s, devouring it on their way back to make it in time for the bell. 

This behavior removes the highly valued interpersonal interactions between students and strong student culture that we should be trying to foster at the school. 

One of the most valuable parts of a high school education is the relationships and tight-knit community built along the 4-year journey. Allowing upperclassmen to vacate the grounds at lunch contributes to pulling students apart from each other and undermining a sense of community.

Lunch time allows students to build connections with each other without any external pressures. Moments between classmates who would never otherwise speak to each other are made possible at lunch.

The benefits of building a school community extend beyond intermingling in the cafeteria and quads. With less upperclassmen going off campus, clubs and various on-campus activities will receive significant boosts in participation. Glimpses of the positive effects of a closed campus can be witnessed during various spirit weeks and other special occasions during the school year, a testament to the policy’s potential to transform the school into a vibrant community.

On the other hand, the benefits of going off campus are minimal — and the risks are real. Newly minted upperclassman drivers often pack their cars with classmates and then speed to fast food places or Safeway and quickly snarf down unhealthy amounts of junk food before speeding again back to the school in time for their next class. This behavior is neither economical nor healthy and risks damaging not only the school community but also themselves and potentially others.

Venturing away from the school to forage for a quick meal can also increase the risk for accidents. Although rare, the pressure for students to come back to class on time is an unnecessary added danger that can be avoided.

It’s time to consider ending the tradition of allowing upperclassmen off campus during lunch immediately and work to build a closer and more lively school environment. This change would also have the benefit of protecting juniors and seniors — and others — from the dangers posed by their own reckless driving.

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