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Two years ago, Patuxent Principal Nancy Highsmith released students from the confines of the cafeteria and replaced the multiple 30-minute lunch periods with one hour-long, schoolwide lunch.
With some creative scheduling class time has remained the same, she said, and the middle-of-the-day burst of freedom has increased club participation, taught time management skills and given stressed-out students time to chill.
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But based on anecdotal evidence, she said it's a "huge success." This fall, Calvert County extended the pilot program to its three other high schools.
The idea came from James Hubert Blake High School in Silver Spring, where Principal Carole Goodman has become known as the "Lunch Lady" for an article she wrote for an education magazine in 2006 about her school's 50-minute lunch period. But that's what teenagers are." Goodman sees fewer lunchroom fights now, she said, because students are not forced to stay in the tension-filled lunchroom. About half of Montgomery high schools have a similar lunch setup, Goodman said.
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For more than eight years, Blake students have been allowed to eat anywhere, meet with clubs, catch up on work, retake tests and even skateboard in the parking lot. Some students would rather hang out with a teacher they trust than face the social "craziness of the cafeteria," she said.