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Student raises concerns about long, crowded lunch lines at Jacksonville high school

District says long lines a result of food service staffing shortages

Students line up to enter the cafeteria at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology.
Students line up to enter the cafeteria at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A student at a high school on the Westside of Jacksonville told News4Jax he is frustrated and concerned for student safety after long lines leading into the school’s cafeteria have become a daily ritual.

The Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology student, who asked not to be identified, said he spent his entire 30-minute lunch period on Monday standing in line waiting to enter the cafeteria in a crowded hallway where some students weren’t wearing masks.

“Personally I’m vaccinated so I’m not all that worried. Obviously, there’s still a risk, and I would say that’s the major concern,” he said.

He shared photos of the lunchtime scenes with News4Jax.

Students at Frank H. Peterson Academies of Technology line up outside the cafeteria during the lunch period. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

“That’s a line to get into the cafeteria and everybody has to wait in it, no matter if they bring a lunch or don’t want to eat, and then they only let a few people go in at a time,” the student said, describing the photos. “And then once you’re inside the cafeteria if you want to get food, there’s another line to wait in.”

He said sometimes students will choose to skip lunch altogether instead of waiting in line.

The student said there’s never been a good explanation from the school for the practice, but the school district told News4Jax on Tuesday the long lines are due to food service staffing shortages, an issue facing school districts across the country.

“School administration has taken steps to reduce the wait times, including opening additional serving lines. Because of the long wait time students are provided extra time to complete their lunch. Regarding the photo, the school made the decision to extend the lines outside to prevent a mass gathering of students waiting inside an enclosed space,” the district wrote in a statement to News4Jax.

Vice President of Operations for DCPS food service provider Chartwells K12, Jane Buttermore said the district is working to address the staffing shortages:

The student told News4Jax there has been talk of student government leadership meeting with the principal to discuss how to handle the issue. He’s hoping it’s resolved soon so he can have plenty of time to eat his lunch and get back to class.

It’s worth mentioning that, as of Monday, there were just six total COVID-19 cases reported at the school, four students and two staff.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.