When the 2015-2016 school year ends, so too will end a 20-year tradition at Seneca Valley High School, as the school’s long-standing tradition of “Open Lunch,” which allowed students to leave the school grounds to purchase lunch at area businesses and restaurants, will end with the school year.
Seneca Valley Principal Marc Cohen told students and parents of the decision to end Open Lunch a few weeks ago, but it was made public to the greater Germantown community at last week’s Town Hall meeting regarding crime in the Town Center.
Cohen said that Open Lunch would end for all students, with the exception of seniors, beginning next year.
“After a very lengthy process of engaging our students, our staff, our parents, and our community in conversation about open lunch, we decided that starting next school year we will no longer have Open Lunch,” said Cohen. “We will continue to have open lunch for seniors; the reality is that many of our seniors are leaving the building early to attend internships or college classes, or other reasons.”
The concept of Open Lunch began 20 years ago, according to Cohen, when a group of citizens in the community who thought it was a good idea to open lunch at Seneca Valley High School. “It has been a long-standing tradition for 20 years. It has, in many ways - for many years, been a gift to the community because it supported a lot of local businesses. In the last several years, it has been seen as both a gift and curse,” said Cohen during the meeting.
However, Cohen was quick to point out that the closing of lunch was not a result of an increase in crime in the Germantown Town Center, but rather response to safety concerns for the students who must cross the busy roadways surround the school to reach the stores and eateries.
“I don’t view it as a penalty,” said Cohen. “I view it as a safety concern. It is a measure to keep our kids safe. In approximately a year we are going to be breaking ground on a new Seneca Valley High School. Once we go into construction, we are going to be closing lunch anyway because we don’t want our kids walking around the school as heavy construction equipment is building a new 400,000-square foot school.”
“It was coming anyway, in a calendar year,” said Cohen. “I acted preemptively, not as a consequence but as a safety measure. I am talking about the safety of our kids as the walk across major roadways that surround our school to get to these restaurants.”
Seneca Valley is bordered by Middlebrook Road and Great Seneca Highway, two of Germantown’s busiest streets.
Cohen pointed out that Seneca Valley student Christina Morris-Ward was fatally struck by a car as she walked to school in October 2012. “Many of you may remember it was only a couple of years ago that we lost one of our students who was struck by a vehicle. It was only a few years before that, as principal at Martin Luther King Middle School that we experienced a similar tragedy. It was only a few years before that Northwest High School experienced the same tragedy.”
In May 2007, Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School student Jeremiah N. Waters, 13, was struck and killed by an SUV after Route 118 and Clopper Road.
In January 2002, Northwest High School student Alicia Allen, 15, died after a car struck her before school as she was crossing the northbound lanes of Great Seneca Highway in front of the school south of Queenstown Lane.
File Photo by Germantown Pulse.