Joey Lagattuta, who will be a senior at Lane Tech High School this year, with his current bell schedule. He's been assigned a lunch period that begins at 9:50 a.m. Credit: Photo courtesy Joey Lagattuta

NORTH CENTER — Students and parents are unhappy with a decision by Lane Tech High School administrators to add a new lunch period that begins at 9:50 a.m.

“They might as well not even call it lunch because it’s so early,” student Joey Lagattuta said. “McDonald’s is still serving breakfast and a lot of places aren’t even open yet.”

Lagattuta is an incoming senior at the school and one of the students assigned the new third period lunch that begins at 9:50 a.m., about two hours after the school opens its doors at 8 a.m.

“Last year my lunch started at 12:[4]5 p.m. and ended at 1:25 p.m. That was sixth period lunch, which is the latest one you can have,” Lagattuta said.  “I found that was the perfect time to have lunch because I only had two periods left and the day was basically over by then.”

Last year Lane had three lunch periods: fourth period which began 10:45 a.m., fifth which began at 11:40 a.m. and sixth which began at 12:45 p.m. Lunch periods are assigned by the school, according to Lagattuta.

Lane’s principal and six assistant principals did not respond to questions about the third period lunch complaints, referring questions to Chicago Public School, which has not responded.

For the students assigned to the… brunch schedule, new strategies are being hatched.

Lagattuta said he’s going to have to plan his meal out in advance better and likely bring food from home because a lot of the places he’s frequented in the past to grab a bite around the school won’t be open yet.

“I assume around sixth period I’ll need a snack or something,” he said. “Maybe ask a friend who has a later lunch to bring me a snack so I can get through the rest of the day.”

Jack Merkel, another incoming senior, said he has five classes after the third period lunch he was assigned. 

“I eat breakfast pretty late. So I’m not going to be hungry at that time,” Merkel said. “So I’m going to be tired for those classes and I’m going to have to bring extra snacks, so that’s going to be a hassle.”

This year he’s also playing hockey, lacrosse and golf after school. Of those three, he’s most worried about his performance at lacrosse games because they’re scheduled after the school day ends and typically require the team to travel long distances, sometimes to Indiana, to compete.

So Merkel would need to either pack food ahead of time or run to grab something to eat before the team leaves the campus.

“That is pretty important because we don’t have that many games in a season,” he said. “So it may lower my ability to play and my energy.”

Micki LeSueur is a parent of a Lane Tech student who has been assigned to third period lunch. When she looked at her son’s schedule for the new school year she was surprised.

“Around here we call that breakfast,” she said.

Her son is taking multiple advanced placement (AP) classes and won’t have a break from when third period lunch lets out around 10:45 a.m. to when the school day ends at 3:15 p.m. That worries her.

“Many of the kids are in such rigorous programs that are already challenging,” she said. “How do you do that? Going from class to class to class, close to five hours of education without a mental break, let alone food?”

Lane Tech is a selective-enrollment high school that prides itself on a “rigorous curriculum with mainly honors and advanced placement courses,” according to CPS.

“Frankly with teenagers, just growing makes them hungry,” LeSueur said. “I’m sure it wasn’t a glib decision by the school, but it’s so counter to a student’s ability to learn it shouldn’t be an option.”

The school’s rules on food say students who bring a lunch must leave it in their locker until lunch period and any food purchased “at an outside facility” cannot be consumed or brought into the school.

“Food or beverages of any kind are not permitted in the classrooms, the halls, or their equivalent. All food is to be consumed in the lunchroom,” the policy reads.

“Most teachers are fine with students eating in their classroom, like a protein bar and water. But they really don’t like kids eating a full meal in their class and a lot of them don’t like soda,” Merkel said. “I feel like kids should be allowed to eat in class if they need to because they may need the energy to focus.”

Lagattuta and Merkel said they and other students suspect the 9:50 a.m. lunch period was added because the school accepted an unprecedented number of freshman for the upcoming school year. According to CPS data, the school has 4,603 students currently enrolled.

“So they needed more lunch periods to spread out all the kids they have at the school,” he said.

Other students believe this as well and began a petition two weeks ago to get all incoming freshman placed in third period lunch.

“3rd period lunch is dumb it’s not even lunch it’s breakfast we demand that all freshmen be put in 3rd period lunch as they are the reason 3rd period lunch was made and put in all other students in the other 3 periods for lunch,” the petition reads.

As of Thursday the petition has 1,509 signatures.

“I have soccer later and this would make me not perform as well if I had my one food break this early,” wrote one student on the petition.

Lagattuta said placing all incoming freshman in third period lunch could make sense for practical purposes because they can’t leave the campus during their first semester anyways and will still be adjusting to the new school.

“I’m a senior so it’s almost like a punishment I have to eat lunch this early,” he said.

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