Parents raise concerns over school lunch time length at Osceola High School

Student started petition to have lunch period extended

OSCEOLA COUNTY, Fla. – Students and family members at Osceola High School are pushing to get results.

Earlier this week, Niyah Harris, a senior at the school, started a petition to change the school lunch time from 30 minutes to an hour.

"We were about a week into school and she had only eaten (during) about two or three of those days because she couldn't get her lunch," said Emelinda Ramos, who has a daughter at the high school.

She signed the petition Thursday.

"I'm able to pack a lunch for my child but not every parent can do that. So, that was more of a concern to me. It wasn't about my child and her lunch period. It was about ... the other children or the time frame that they need to actually have a good meal so that they can learn," Ramos said.

Her signature is among close to 3,000 supporting a push to extend the lunch time from 30 minutes to an hour.

Evelyn Harris' daughter, Niyah, started the petition.

She has three children at Osceola High School.

"When I asked them, they have been in school for like four days and one had not eaten two days because the lines were just too long," Harris said.

News 6 contacted the school board about the concerns.

Dana Schafer, a representative with the school board, said a program designed to help students in their academic studies, called LASSO, has recently been implemented.

That means half of the students go to lunch for 30 minutes and the other half attend their LASSO sessions and vice versa.

Before, students weren't required to participate in the program, giving students an hour to sit down and eat.

The school released a statement Thursday:
"Osceola High School implemented a LASSO period as a part of their lunches two years ago in order to provide time during the school day for students to get extra help from their teachers, make up assignments on quizzes, and participate in clubs and other school activities. Dr. Campbell, Principal of Osceola High, has continued that tradition, providing students dedicated time to improve their studies. Half of the school population goes to LASSO first and lunch second, while the other half goes to lunch first and LASSO second. Additional lunch lines have been opened to accommodate student growth, and students have been able to clear the lines and enjoy their meals during the time provided for lunch. If lunch lines are delayed, the school’s administration has provided passes for students still eating at the end of the lunch period to report to class after the bell. Dr. Campbell and her team will continue to monitor the situation and ensure that students have adequate time for lunch while maintaining a laser focus on academic success for ALL Kowboys."

"I appreciate the academic effort. I mean, that's the whole goal," Harris said. "I think unfortunately, the logistics behind making that happen probably didn't go as planned."

Harris said her daughter and the principal spoke about the concerns Thursday.

"I think it was a good conversation. The principal wanted to make sure my daughter understood she knew why the changes were made and just so she had both sides of the story but there was no mention of anything changing," Harris said. "The principal is listening to student concerns and is having a good dialogue with them."

Many of our high schools do the same exact thing during their lunches," Schafer said.

News 6 checked with surrounding school districts to compare their school lunch times.

Lake County schools get 30 minutes for lunch.

Orange County also has a 30-minute standard. However, a school representative said there's some variation based on the number of periods and the number of students per period.

Seminole County schools vary by elementary, middle and high schools, but the typical lunch period is approximately 30 minutes.