Capacity issues crowd kids in cafeteria at DHS
It's 11:45 a.m.: lunch time for students at Dickinson High School. The school has about 1,000 students, but you won't find even half of them in the cafeteria. Less than 300 students can fit into it.
Students enter the cafeteria through one door and form two lines just wide enough for a person to walk down on either side of the tables. On one side, they're crowded against the back of the gym bleachers. On the other, they're crowded against the metal door of the concession stand. Students walk up and down the middle aisle between two rows of tables as well. They're not supposed to, according to Roxane Loken who oversees the salad bar, but there just isn't space enough not to.
"They need room to walk through here," said Loken.. "If you hear, they're just clanging on those walls. Oh my God, all the noise ... it drives me insane sometimes."
"They're elbow to elbow in there," she added.
When the weather becomes colder, the number of students eating in the cafeteria increases from an average of about 180 to an average of about 280, said head cook Chantal Crandell.
The school has an open campus, and at the start of their 45 minute lunch, the parking lot becomes like a bottleneck as teenagers rush to eat elsewhere.
Many of the students who do eat in the cafeteria do so because they can't drive. Freshman Jenna Moormann and Brielyn Erhart both said they would leave if they could.
"It's just crammed. It's really noisy," they said.
It's Junior Greyson Radrmas' first year at Dickinson High School. He was surprised by the size of the cafeteria, calling it "tiny." One of the reasons he and his friends don't eat in the cafeteria: it's crowded.
However, that's not the only reason they would leave if they had a vehicle. They would also prefer to eat different food.
"If I had a vehicle, I'd go home and eat," said Greyson's friend Skylor Pritt. Most people leave campus, he said.
"JD's is right across the street," said freshman Era Edwards. "They actually have really good food. Especially if you order off the kid's menu, it's pretty cheap, so most people go there, but once you're out of money, you have to eat here."
While he recognizes that the crowding of the cafeteria is an issue, Principal Kevin Hoherz knows that isn't the only reason students leave campus for lunch.
"I think if we would take a student survey, how many would eat if we would have more room in the cafeteria," he said, "I would say we'd gain a few, but I don't think we'd gain that much."
Having an open campus comes with its own challenges. It creates a lot of traffic and thus a potential for minor vehicle accidents. Students are also unsupervised when off campus. For now, it's the high school's way of working around the cafeteria capacity issue.
"That building was not designed for the number of students that we have even today," said Dr. Shon Hocker, Superintendent of Dickinson Public Schools, "and those numbers are only going to grow and get significantly larger."