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Rochester Public Schools shortens high school lunch hour

With one possible exception, Rochester's high schools had the longest lunch period in the state, according to an RPS official.

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Students have lunch on Friday, Sept. 23, 2022 at Mayo High School.
Jordan Shearer / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Rochester Public Schools has shortened the lunch period for high school students in an effort to provide a more structured environment.

The change will shorten the lunch period from an hour to 40 minutes. Jacque Peterson, RPS Chief of Schools, gave an update on the change at a recent school board meeting.

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"It was purposeful to support the needs of our kids who were struggling to be productive and find positive things to do with the time they had after they had eaten their lunch," Peterson said. "We did have behavior issues in our high schools because we had a lot of time that was unstructured."

The shortened lunch period is just one of the changes RPS has implemented in an effort to create a disciplined atmosphere. The district also implemented a new cell phone policy this year, making explicit guidelines about where students can and can't use their electronic devices.

Peterson attributed the success of both changes — as well as the "smooth start" to the school year — to the deliberate planning the district did immediately following the end of the last school year. The district held a "belonging and behavior" summit shortly after school let out, which it used to plan some of the changes that are now going into effect.

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The lunch period only changed for the high school buildings. Elementary school lunches are 30 minutes. Middle school lunches are approximately 40 minutes.

All three high schools have "open campus" privileges for juniors and seniors, meaning they can leave the premises if they choose.

Peterson said that with one possible exception, Rochester's high schools had the longest lunch period in the state. She went on to say that the change has received positive support from the schools.

"Our schools — all three of them — are seeing a big difference. They see kids having time to get through the line and eat," Peterson said about the shortened lunch period. "And about the time you see kids kind of wondering what they should do, the bell rings and they're ready to go back to class."

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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