Wash Hands or Eat Lunch? Students Forced to Choose in 2020


Students, such as Cayce Aldrich (senior), still stand in line well after lunch begins. Photo by Sarah Treusch.

With the intention of accommodating social distancing, North has four lunch periods after only having three last year. In order to have these four periods, each lunch period is only 25 minutes. While the time students get to eat is diminishing, the global pandemic is not. Students need more than the allotted time to wash their hands if they wish to do so and eat.


Senior Lucy Owusu said, “Because of Covid, I believe we should be given the time to wash our hands or sanitize before we eat. I think the 25 minute school lunches are too short because, due to COVID-19 and social distancing, there are only three lines available to get your food, and there are over 500 kids in the lunchroom. Therefore, when they get their food and figure out they only have about 10 minutes left to eat.”


In these 25 minutes, students are expected to get to the lunchroom from class, wash their hands before eating, stand in the lunch line, eat their lunch, wash their hands before returning to class and walk back to class. Mathematically speaking, these 25 minutes leave students in a time crunch. 


Hypothetically speaking, let’s pretend to be a student here. They have to get to the lunchroom, which can take up to three or four minutes depending on where the classroom is. For the purpose of math, let’s say two minutes. Then, from the lunch room they will go wash their hands. One minute of travel time, two minutes to wash their hands and a possible four minutes if they wish to use the restroom (because they would rather not miss class time) have passed at this point. This student hasn’t even made it to the lunch line and nine minutes of their 25 minute lunchtime has passed. These nine minutes are 36 percent of their lunch period. 


Hybrid student Sarah Marks, sophomore, says that she would wash her hands before and after lunch if she was given the time to “especially with COVID-19. It’s important to wash your hands a lot.”


Now, this student has to get to the lunch line, one minute of travel time and wait in line for about three to five minutes (or longer if it is Asian chicken day…the people love Asian chicken). 52 percent of the lunchtime is spent washing their hands to take precautions, traveling from point A to point B and waiting in the lunch line. 


Irelan McCormick, sophomore, states, “I would wash my hands before/after lunch if I had enough time because hand sanitizer alone isn’t enough before/after lunch.”


Before considering the time they would take to eat the lunch, think about the fact that they would have to wash their hands. Then, they have to travel back to class before their lunch period is over. Their teacher’s want to make sure that class does not fall behind all of their other periods because they want to maximize time in class. 


Sophomore Grace Mitchell said, “It would let people have more time to go to the bathroom and stuff, which would ultimately lead to more hand washing. What they should do is put hand sanitizer by each lunch line, so people would use it before they buy lunch. Then, boom, people are eating lunch with clean hands.”


This means that the student needs at least six minutes at the end of lunch to throw away their food, walk to the bathroom, wash their hands and walk to class. With the time leftover, students only have six minutes to actually spend eating their lunch. This leaves students to choose whether they value having time to eat or take precautions against the coronavirus. 


Also, depending on where a student sits in the cafeteria, clusters of students leave at different times to minimize traffic congestion in the hallways, which makes complete sense. However, it also means that there are students who will leave last indicating that they have even less time to rush back to class. 


“Yes, I do think school lunches are short. Lunch is the only time we can really communicate and hang out with our peers, and those moments are to make friends and to create lasting bonds” said freshman Jaxxon Otteson. 


One could suggest that instead of washing their hands, students should use the school provided hand sanitizer because it is quicker than washing hands; however, the hand sanitizer on the wall is neglected by students. Senior Lucy Owusu said, “At the beginning of the school year, every person would use the hand sanitizer” when getting chromebooks, but “no one really cares anymore. They just grab the chromebook.” Sophomore Irelan McCormick describes the county provided hand sanitizer as “sticky and gross.” 


The school is doing what they feel is the best that they can; however, other schools such as West Forsyth High School have an entire period designated for lunch, where students can also go and get help from a teacher in that time as well. It is respectable that North has four lunch periods instead of their usual three to accommodate social distancing, but 25 minutes is not enough time. I would suggest cutting five minutes from each Raider Time and designating them towards lunch so that students have 35 minutes at lunch. Students should not have to prioritize either their safety or their full lunch. Mask up, Raiders!