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Kiski Area's 'lunch and learn' gives students time management options

Emily Balser
| Sunday, Dec. 17, 2017, 10:56 p.m.
Kiski Area High School senior Olivia Rimmel, 17, and junior Bailey Kush, 16, work on their homework while eating lunch in the library during the school's 'lunch and learn' program.
Emily Balser | Tribune-Review
Kiski Area High School senior Olivia Rimmel, 17, and junior Bailey Kush, 16, work on their homework while eating lunch in the library during the school's 'lunch and learn' program.

Kiski Area High School is giving its students a little more flexibility in the middle of the day with its new “lunch and learn” program.

The school rolled out the program this fall to give students the opportunity to decide how they need to spend the roughly one hour and 15 minutes set aside in the school day. Students can simply eat lunch and socialize or they can eat lunch and visit a teacher to get help with homework. The school also offers elective seminars, guest speakers and intramural sports during this time.

“It doesn't look like a typical lunch period in a high school,” said Chad Roland, principal. “There's a lot more flexibility — students are able to go to the cafeteria when they want to go to the cafeteria. They're able to make some choices.”

Roland said the initiative grew out of a similar program offered in previous years called intervention and enrichment.

“Lunch and learn” differs from that earlier model by having a more relaxed schedule for teachers and students, and giving the teachers undivided time to have one-on-one with students.

Ninth-grade English teacher Gina Bono said she was apprehensive about students having so much freedom at first, but has come around on the idea.

She said she's seen students come to her for help who she didn't even realize were struggling because they didn't show any signs in class.

She said the “lunch and learn” time can provide a bit of confidentiality for students who may feel nervous to speak up about needing a little extra help.

“We're able to get quality time with students that we otherwise would not get,” Bono said.

Roland said some students that have demonstrated they can't use the time effectively are placed with a teacher to make sure they are where they should be.

“We have a couple different levels of structure for students who may not be able to handle the full freedom,” he said.

Junior Bailey Kush, 16, said she enjoys getting to choose what she does with her time. She works in the library on homework while having her lunch, but also sits with her friends.

“I think it's great because it's like a balance between taking a break from school and just being around your friends and then also getting the help you need,” Kush said.

Senior Olivia Rimmel, 17, has embraced the change.

“As soon as we got into it I really started to like it,” she said. “I noticed it was a time where I didn't feel so rushed anymore.”

Rimmel said she feels like she can take her time eating instead of rushing to get done fast, and she can get help with her homework from her friends.

“It just seemed like everything was flowing a lot easier and I didn't feel like my day was just rushing and running around all over the place,” she said.

Roland said Kiski Area consulted Lower Merion School District on the eastern side of the state for how to structure the “lunch and learn” program.

“We were able to see it in action, and I really was impressed with the programming they were permitted to offer their students,” Roland said. “We were able to get a very good view of what that was like.”

Roland said they are still adjusting the program to make sure students and their parents know about all of the opportunities available to them during the “lunch and learn” time.

Roland said, overall, the program is meant to prepare students for life after high school when they will have more free time and need to make their own time management decisions.

“I believe the biggest advantage that we have is embedding (free time) in the school day,” he said. “(It) allows us an opportunity to teach students the way they need to behave and the way they need to conduct themselves, and make decisions to be better citizens and better future students and learners.”

Emily Balser is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-226-4680, emilybalser@tribweb.com or via Twitter @emilybalser.

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