CHS Students Take Their Lunch Break Off Campus

Between California Tortilla, Chipotle and Cava, the rest of the school envies those lucky, licensed seniors who have several options of places to drive to for lunch during the school week.

The school rules are that seniors are allowed to leave school grounds during the 55 minute lunch period only upon completing certain graduation requirements. Other students who lack those requirements also go out during the week, however, despite school rules. Some students drive, while others Uber or catch a ride with friends who can drive.

“It’s a great way to take a break from school midday,” senior Sonya Berinstein said.

Both Cabin John shopping center and Montgomery Mall are located less than 10 minutes away from CHS, making them fast hot spots for CHS students during lunch.

According to an Observer survey of 56 students, 37 percent, the highest percentage out of any other option, prefer California Tortilla for lunch. About 39 percent also deem it as the place they go most often.

California Tortilla, often referred to by students as “Cal Tor,” is located in Cabin John Shopping Center about a mile away from CHS.

While seniors are supposed to be the only ones who go out for lunch, many lower-classmen still go out without the required lunch pass.

“We usually leave about three times a week,” sophomore Roya Nassaj said. “It depends on when we don’t have things to do for school at lunch and when we don’t pack our lunches. We usually get there with older friends who drive or Uber if we have to.”

Before Uber existed, it was much more difficult for students without licenses to leave campus during the day. Regardless, having a license as well as a parking spot makes a difference for any student.

According to senior Owen Hall, he first started going out for lunch this year since he has a spot in the senior lot, as he is now able to drive himself and have guaranteed parking when he returns.

Having a parking spot and a car can make it easier for students to go out and come back on time during lunch.

On the other hand, according to Berinstein, since she doesn’t have a spot, she only sometimes drives herself and instead usually rides with friends.

In order to obtain a lunch pass, the senior must have completed all of the 75 required Student Service Learning (SSL) hours and have no obligations. For example, owing any money or never turning in textbooks to the school is a possible offense.

According to security guard Salcion Riley, the security team checks periodically to make sure whoever leaves for lunch are those who are allowed.

Even so, with so many students at CHS, it is difficult to strictly enforce this rule.

“It’s kind of hard to do so because there’s a lot of kids and a lack of us,” Riley said. “Too many kids go at one time.”

According to Nassaj, in the beginning of the year she and her friends were caught leaving school for lunch, but they were let off with a warning because they were being safe and did not leave school every single day.

The consequence of getting caught going out for lunch is lunch detention, but that doesn’t stop most students.

According to the Observer survey, 59 percent of students surveyed said it is easy to go out during lunch on school days.

Because of the mass of students who go out to lunch compared to the five security guards, passes are checked on a basis less proportionate to both number of students in the school and students who go out. Both the disproportionate numbers and loose enforcement make it easy for students of all grades to go out to lunch.

According to senior Laney Williams, she has a pass to go out to lunch but has never been asked to show it.

Other nearby schools have different lunch policies. Walter Johnson, for example, has an open lunch policy–wherein all students are allowed to leave school grounds during their lunch period.

“I love having open lunch so much because I am able to leave school and get away from all the stress,” WJ sophomore Debra Eller said. “It’s nice that they let us have open lunch and make it our own responsibility to be back on time.”

Berinstein chooses to go to Cabin John mall most often because of its proximity.

In addition to California Tortilla, Cabin John is home to several other quick options such as Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and McDonald’s. With so many close options, it may be harder for students to resist going out, especially during the warm weather.

According to Williams, Cabin John mall is her favorite place to go because it’s close by and she can sit outside at the tables when it is nice outside.

With the warm weather finally settling in and quick and cheap options such as California Tortilla and Cava close by, lunch serves as the time for all students to take a break from the stress bubble that encircles CHS.

“I think if students are responsible and leave and come back on time and safely it shouldn’t be a problem and students would be very happy to get a little break,” Nassaj said.