What do our high schoolers do for lunch? What does a sign-out system mean? How does it work? Do they just wander around downtown? Is it safe? These are all good questions that we want to answer.
The idea behind our lunch and sign-out system is that going to high school downtown and using the city as our campus help teenagers learn how to navigate the world and become independent young adults. In four years (or three, or two, or one), you’ll be dropping your kids off on a college campus — perhaps in a large city — and expecting them to know how to handle it and navigate life. Our open campus provides students a small step toward that, with a big safety net underneath them.
Our sign-out system is philosophically fundamental to the High School, because when we talk about being college preparatory, we mean students not only being academically prepared, but also becoming personally ready to be on their own in college and beyond. In addition to helping students learn to manage their time, the sign-out system and downtown location enable students to gain independence and take responsibility for themselves as they become familiar with and thrive in an urban environment.
Many St. Francis students go on to colleges in bigger cities, and their understanding of how to handle themselves in those environments is extremely valuable. The possibility of purchasing lunch out also provides an opportunity for budget discussions between parents and students, another important topic during the high school years. We know that it can seem daunting to parents to allow high schoolers to walk around downtown but, as with many aspects of the St. Francis philosophy, we believe it’s essential to help them learn now, with parents and teachers (who are also often out in the area during the lunch period) to guide them, rather than when they are on their own in college in just a few short years with no one really watching out for them.
Safety While Signing Out
Parents often worry and think “No way am I letting my teenager just wander around downtown!” We agree. We don’t let them wander around downtown either. Students’ safety is paramount; students must go with a buddy when signing out. Our students at times encounter homeless people and panhandlers, as is becoming more common around every part of Louisville. We advise students on how to handle this, what to do (be polite and respectful) and not do (give them money or otherwise engage), and how to get involved otherwise if they are concerned about issues of homelessness and hunger. Overall, we do not encounter major safety issues in the downtown environment surrounding St. Francis. The biggest safety concern for our students is traffic, and for that reason we have and enforce a strict school prohibition on jaywalking.
Eating In or Eating Out?
At the High School, students choose between signing out for lunch, bringing their own, or ordering in. All three options are popular with students; most do some combination of them in any given week and throughout the year.
The High School is within a block of numerous eateries, including fast food, sandwiches, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Italian. Signing out for lunch has been one of the students’ favorite things about the High School since it was founded. When choosing to sign out, students go in pairs or groups, and they sign out in writing, indicating where they are going and when, and then sign back in upon return. If students do not use the sign-out system properly, they get “grounded” and lose their sign-out privileges for a period of time.
The Commons Room and Student Kitchen, beautiful spaces completed in fall 2016, feature a large refrigerator/freezer, sink, counter, 10 microwaves, and tables and chairs, all dedicated to student use. The Commons Room is the heart of the school, providing a welcome space to sit and eat, study, chat with friends, or even enjoy a game of pool or ping-pong during the lunch period.
Based on student input, we partnered this year with a company called My Hot Lunchbox that coordinates free delivery from Panera on Tuesdays and Safier (a local Mediterranean restaurant) on Thursdays. Students or parents can order by noon the day prior and then the lunch is delivered before our lunch period on the designated day.
We also have the Wyvern Store, run by the 10th grade class each year, which sells snacks, drinks, and some heartier items like mac ‘n cheese, frozen burritos, etc. In addition, there are numerous delivery options, including the very popular Postmates, that bring all kinds of food right to the High School lobby.
As we mentioned earlier, for us these choices are essential to the St. Francis philosophy. Our goal is to help students learn now how to manage themselves (time, money, safety, etc.) in order to truly prepare them for college and life beyond. And, we believe that going to high school in a thriving metropolitan area results in graduates who are savvier and more sophisticated, and therefore ultimately ready for life on their own in college.