Officials at a local high school are trying to create opportunities during lunch for students so they won’t hang out at the local plaza.
Paul McAlpine, principal of Pope John Paul II Secondary School, said they are taking steps to keep the students in the school.
“We’re trying to draw kids into our own cafeteria so they will enjoy a menu that would keep them here,” McAlpine said.
But due to the amount of students at the school, the cafeteria is at times unable to handle two lunch breaks with roughly 700 students each time, he said, adding there is a need to filter students out into the community or for them to bring their own lunches.
“We’re very limited by the plaza up the street which treats us very well,” he said. “But they’re also inundated with students over a very short lunch period.”
Frank Chi, an employee at the Village Smoke and Convenience store, said there are times when 15 to 20 students are in the store simultaneously during lunch.
“I need at least two people here to deal with the rush,” Chi said. as he warmed up some of the patties served at his store.
The assistant manager of the Popeye’s Chicken and Biscuits also said her store is really crowded daily from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. She mentioned this is usually the case during the wintertime when no students want to eat outside due to the cold weather conditions.
“There’s no other place to go to sit,” she said. “They have one pizza place here and [one] chicken place to go to.”
Students said the plaza is a popular destination because it is the only place that serves food other than their school.
“They’re the closest stores,” said Jessica Moore, a student at JPII. She said the students not only like coming to the plaza to get lunch, but also “to take a break from school.”
Another students pointed to the lack of transportation as an issue.
“There isn’t really anywhere else to go if you don’t have a car,” said Amanda Bacchus. “We don’t drive; [the plaza] is walking distance.”
McAlpine said the school has a good rapport with the merchants at the plaza and he visits the plaza on a monthly basis to speak with its vendors.