According to the Colt Andrews Elementary School handbook for 2012-2013, “visitors, particularly parents, are welcome at the school … each visitor must report to the office upon entering the school to obtain a pass.”
But, as one mother found out, just don’t stay for lunch.
On Monday, Jan. 28, Katie Sousa was surprised to find that she would not be allowed in the Colt Andrews cafeteria to have lunch with her son to celebrate the boy’s ninth birthday. When Ms. Sousa arrived at the school, she said the principal, Patrick Latucca, would not let her inside, telling her a new policy had been implemented and that parents are not allowed in the cafeteria to have lunch with the children. Instead, Mr. Latucca offered up his office where the two could eat their lunch.
Superintendent of Schools Melinda Thies said across the district, parents seldom request to have lunch with their children. However, after school officials at Warren’s Hugh Cole School experienced a significant number of lunchtime parents — more than the cafeteria could accommodate safely — changes had to be made.
“The issue did arise in the fall with the number of visitors coming in on any given day,” Ms. Thies said of the “open door” policy.
To address the issue, the superintendent’s office surveyed all the school administrators to find out if they, too, were dealing with space issues during lunches.
“Each principal said the cafeteria was at capacity,” Ms. Thies said.
Increasing occupancy by allowing parents “became an issue of safety, security and being able to monitor” inside an overcrowded cafeteria.
At Hugh Cole school, a Cozy Café was created where parents and their children can eat, separate from the cafeteria. Similar areas have not been offered at other schools in the district, Ms. Thies said, simply because “we didn’t have an issue with parents.”
“The parent (at Colt Andrews school) did have lunch with her son on his birthday. The principal made an appropriate accommodation by freeing up his office.”
But that didn’t satisfy Ms. Sousa.
“Who wants to eat in the principal’s office,” she said. “That’s a punishment.”
The Bristol Warren school district’s visitor policy is one of the changes that Ms. Thies anticipates parents may find inconvenient, but, she said, is necessary to ensure a safe, secure learning environment for students.