Silent lunches? Superintendent says there's no lack of socializing

New rule based on health department guidance, CDC studies

By Josh Bickford
Posted 9/18/20

School lunches may be silent, but students are still socializing throughout the day, said the top Barrington school official.

Barrington Superintendent Michael Messore said he has received some …

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Silent lunches? Superintendent says there's no lack of socializing

New rule based on health department guidance, CDC studies

Posted

School lunches may be silent, but students are still socializing throughout the day, said the top Barrington school official.

Barrington Superintendent Michael Messore said he has received some emails and phone calls about the district's decision to institute silent lunch and snack periods. He said the decision to have silent lunches was done for the health and safety of students and staff, not as a punishment.

And, he added, schools officials are balancing the quiet time during lunch with plenty of interaction and engagement throughout the rest of the day.

Mr. Messore said student interaction is happening in classrooms at every level — at the high school, students are working together to build websites and complete group projects, and they talk while walking around the campus; and at the elementary schools, students spend time interviewing each other and working on collaborative projects.

"Children are still talking to each other," he said. "There's not a lack of socializing.

"People think this is a punitive measure. It's not."

According to an email from the superintendent to students' parents, the decision was based on the recommendation of Dr. Bromage, a comparative immunologist and professor of biology specializing in immunology at UMass-Dartmouth, and on Rhode Island Department of Health guidance.

"Recent studies from the CDC have demonstrated that eating in restaurants is one of the highest risk activities for spreading COVID-19," stated the email. "As we want to keep our schools open and our staff and students safe, we decided to follow the silent lunch and snack guidance.

"We are aware of the importance of socialization for our students. As such, we have increased opportunities for outdoor breaks where students may socialize in a much safer environment. We recognize and value the social and emotional well-being needs of students and staff and must balance them with physical safety."

Mr. Messore said today's classrooms offer plenty of interaction, collaboration and open discussions among students. He said he can recall a time decades earlier when students were forced to remain silent throughout the class period — that is not the case any more.

"There is a great level of engagement," he said.

Mr. Messore added that re-entry to Barrington schools has gone very well, although he cautioned the school year was just a few days old.

He said student behavior has been "phenomenal," and that children of all ages have done a great job adhering to mask-wearing.

Mr. Messore also praised the teachers' hard work during the start of school and during the weeks leading up to re-entry.

"I think the teachers have been thrilled to see their students and be with them," he said.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.