What do our high schoolers do for lunch? What is the Sign-Out System? How does it work? Do kids just wander around downtown? Is it safe? These are all good questions that we want to answer.
The idea behind our lunch protocol and Sign-Out System is that going to high school downtown and using the city as our campus enable teenagers to learn how to navigate the world and become independent young adults. In four years (or three, or two, or one), you’ll be dropping your student off on a college campus — perhaps in a large city — and expecting them to know how to handle it and navigate life. Our open campus provides students a small step toward that, with a big safety net underneath them.
Safety While Signing Out
Parents often worry and think “No way am I letting my teenager just wander around downtown!” We agree! The Sign-Out System is designed to give students the ability to do specific things downtown (e.g., get some food or go to the Library), but using it under our carefully designed parameters is key. Paramount in the design of those parameters is students’ safety. First, students must go with a buddy when signing out. Second, they have to indicate on the Sign-Out Sheet where they are going and the time (so we can find them if needed), and then sign back in when they return. Third, they can only go as far as they can get on foot in their allotted period of time (no bikes, cars, etc.). And finally, the adults at SFS are also often out and about in the same places our students are, so we are often keeping an eye on them. Some parents have concerns about students encountering the homeless and it is true that our students, at times, do encounter homeless people or panhandlers, as is becoming more common around every part of Louisville. We advise students on how to handle this safely, what to do (be polite and respectful) and not do (give them money or otherwise engage), and how to get involved otherwise if they are concerned about issues of homelessness and hunger. Overall, we do not encounter major safety issues in the downtown environment surrounding St. Francis. The biggest safety concern for our students is traffic, and for that reason, we have and enforce a strict school prohibition on jaywalking.
Developing Independence Through the Sign-Out System
Our Sign-Out System is philosophically fundamental to the High School, because when we talk about being college preparatory, we mean students being both academically prepared and personally ready to be on their own in college and beyond. In addition to helping students learn to manage their time, the Sign-Out System and downtown location enable students to gain independence and take responsibility for themselves as they become familiar with and thrive in an urban environment.
Many St. Francis students go on to colleges in bigger cities, and their understanding of how to handle themselves in those environments is extremely valuable. The possibility of purchasing lunch out also provides an opportunity for budget discussions between parents and teenagers, another important topic during the high school years that will serve students well when they go to college. We know that it can seem daunting to parents to allow high schoolers to walk around downtown, but we believe it’s essential to help them learn now how to navigate a real city, with parents and teachers to guide them, rather than when they are on their own in college in just a few short years.
Eating In or Eating Out?
At the High School, students choose between signing out for lunch, bringing their own, or ordering in. All three options are popular with students; most do some combination of them in any given week and throughout the year.
The High School is within a block of numerous eateries, including fast food, sandwiches, Chinese, Mediterranean, and Italian. Signing out for lunch has been one of the students’ favorite things about the High School since it was founded. When choosing to sign out, students go in pairs or groups, indicate where they are going and what time, and sign back in upon return. If students do not use the Sign-Out System properly, they get “grounded” and lose their sign-out privileges for a period of time.
The Commons Room and Student Kitchen feature a large refrigerator/freezer, sink, counter, 10 microwaves, and tables and chairs, all dedicated to student use. The Commons Room is the heart of the School, providing a welcome space to sit and eat, study, chat with friends, or even enjoy a game of pool or ping-pong during the lunch period.
We have partnered with a company called My Hot Lunchbox that coordinates free delivery from Panera on Tuesdays and Fridays. Students or parents can order by noon the day prior and then the lunch is delivered before our lunch period on the designated day.
We also have the Wyvern Store, run by the 10th grade class each year, which sells snacks, drinks, and some heartier items like mac ‘n cheese, frozen burritos, etc. In addition, there are numerous delivery options, including the very popular Postmates or DoorDash, that bring all kinds of food right to the High School lobby.
As we mentioned earlier, for us these choices are essential to the St. Francis philosophy. Our goal is to help students learn now how to manage themselves (time, money, safety, etc.) in order to truly prepare them for college and life beyond. Going to high school in a thriving metropolitan area results in graduates who are savvier and more sophisticated, and ultimately ready for life on their own in college.
Note: In 2020-21, there have been some alterations to the Sign-Out System due to COVID-19, but this article represents the normal course of things, which we expect to be able to return to in 2021-22.