by Anne-Emilie Rouffiac
On Monday, March 11, 2019, the Media Center implemented a new, quiet-lunch policy that urged students to maintain a low noise level during lunch block. Aimed at making the media center an orderly, clean, productive work environment, the policy has received mixed reactions from the student body.
“It makes me sad,” GHS junior Jordan Nanai stated.
“I think lunch should be a time for students to be able to rest their brains from the long day of classes, so not being able to talk louder than a whisper is not favorable. Also, since people are not allowed to talk, that causes many more people to be in the student center making it more crowded,” said Sophia McGowan, a GHS junior.
When creating this new policy, the media center specialists hoped to foster a cleaner, calmer, and more productive setting. “We know that the student center can be such an intense, overwhelming experience,” media specialist Ms. Waters explained; the staff wants to provide an alternative space in which students can focus on work or relax quietly.
“What we’ve noticed over the past couple of years is that, especially during lunch block, the volume and the noise intensity up here has gotten so extensive that it’s hard to really be in the space…” Ms. Waters added. “We were feeling really bad when kids were telling us that they couldn’t get work done during lunch block.” Moreover, this growing “volume” of students during 4th period was also exceeding the maximum capacity dictated by the firecode, causing the staff to worry about student safety.
They also wanted to keep the library clean and orderly. A major concern has been the amount of trash left on the library tables after lunch. Media center specialist Ms. Shimchick explained that, in earlier years, students were not allowed to eat food in the media center; this policy changed when “small snacks” (Ms. Shimchick) were permitted. But this “snowballs”, she explained; it starts with snacks, then students bring sandwiches and Uber Eats.
Last year, the media center staff established new measures to lower noise levels and clean up the space. They gave warnings to disruptive groups while leaving notices on tables to show the maximum number of people that can sit there. Seeing a negative response from the student body, they thought, “[w]e’re going to just try to let kids have a little bit more free reign, and sure enough, very quickly, it became very overwhelming,” said Ms. Waters.
Thus, they gave a general warning to the student body in December, urging students to put chairs back in the right place and to throw out all trash. “It was just a way of trying to put some boundaries on the way kids are interacting with the space to make it more academic,” Ms. Waters explained. “We didn’t have a whole lot of success.”
Thus, the issues persisted. Media specialist Ms. Harford explained that the library was “getting out of control” as it was becoming “another student center”.
At the end of the day, students often view the student center as a dirty and less appealing place. “We don’t want that to become what people say about this space,” Ms. Waters emphasized.
As a result, she and Ms. Stevens attended a Student Government meeting earlier this year to brainstorm solutions with students. The media center staff also had to come up with a course of action in department meetings. They researched the policies that other schools use to manage long lunch block periods.
“[We] discovered that a couple of other schools had implemented this ‘quiet lunch block’ as a way to ensure that there is a quiet academic space that is available to kids,” Ms. Waters stated. This discovery lead to the formation of the new policy.
“Our hope is really to get everybody back to the idea that this is a library; it is an academic space where kids should be getting their work done and there are other spaces that are more social and more relaxed… We want to be comfortable and we don’t mind if there is some socializing… [but] some kids need a space to get some stuff done,” emphasized Ms. Waters.
While the policy has not drastically reduced the number of students in the media center during lunch, Ms. Waters said the staff has noticed a decrease in trash and astray furniture. Noise levels has also been reduced, increasing academic productivity.
Another junior (also wishes to be anonymous) said, “It makes me wonder how these teachers have nothing better to do than to yell at kids for having a conversation.”
A GHS sophomore, who also wishes to remain anonymous, asked “Why is there a security guard?” They wanted to know if it was to escort disruptive students out of the media center or to help keep noise levels down.
Ms. Waters came to the conclusion that “We really need a student lounge. [Unfortunately] We don’t have a space in the building for it.” She did not know whether this idea would ever become a reality.
In the meantime, she explained that the media center’s new policy is here to stay, at least for the rest of the school year. While not all students have welcomed the policy, the staff sees it as a necessary measure. However, she added that they were open to feedback and new ideas at any point in the future.