In what is being held up as an incremental return to normalcy, Burlington public schools are back to eating in the cafeteria.
On Tuesday school officials updated the School Committee about the reopening of the elementary and middle school cafeterias after more than a year and half of having them either closed or used for socially distant learning.
“Students are excited,” Director of Operations Bob Cunha said. “For some, it’s their first time going into cafeterias so we had to do some trial runs to get the kids used to walking down to the cafeterias, standing in line and sitting at the tables. But again, the kids are excited to be in the cafeteria.”
The return to the cafeterias is also taking some of the pressure off of staff and relieving a supply issue the district was facing. As reported on BNEWS, before the cafeterias were reopened the Food Services Director reported having a difficult time getting the paper goods necessary to deliver lunches to all of the classrooms. They were also spending a lot of time making those deliveries.
“We are looking to use less products now that we’re able to serve on a tray as opposed to packaging materials,” Cunha said. “That is definitely where we’ll see a reduction in waste and as for food it is the same exact thing. We’re still offering the same food and we want the kids to take it. Obviously ,kids have the option to not take something if they choose to so I think we will see a reduction in our overall food usage but that’s not our intent, we want to provide the food to the children that want it.”
Superintendent Eric Conti asked Cunha if the change was being welcomed by the cafeteria workers.
“I know the cafeteria workers were working incredibly hard to get lunches to the classrooms and are working just as hard now in the cafeteria but they’re not delivering,” he said. “Have the working conditions improved?”
Cunha said the change has helped.
“I think just the change alone is a benefit to them all but also with change it takes a little bit of adjustment,” he said. “But they all know how to do their jobs and do them well but there is a learning curve because we haven’t done it this way in a while. I think not delivering food to the classrooms is very welcomed by all the cafeteria members and I think once we get another week or two behind us things will settle down a bit and get back to semi-normal.”
There are COVID precautions in place such as spacing out the lines and having students wear masks until they are seated. However, Cunha said other districts in the area that have already opened up their cafeterias have not seen a rise in cases.