JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — New school year, a new variant, and new concerns.
Students are hungry to be back to school for in person learning, making things feel a little bit back to normal. It’s not just in the classroom, but also normalcy during lunchtime.
Kelly, Cravotta the kitchen manager at D’Evelyn Jr-Sr High School, said that last year due to social distancing and a reduction in big group gatherings, students would sit in a chair in the hallway with no table to eat lunch or move outside.
It’s a balance between protecting students against the virus and allowing them to have as normal a school year as possible.
Students are hungry to get back in the classroom and see their friends but there are extra precautions to keep students safe and healthy especially while eating.
Cravotta said the lunchroom has always been a squeaky clean place but with COVID-19. they’ve added an extra ingredient to their cleaning recipe. It’s one that has to kill the virus.
“The only thing is, that’s different. This started last year with germicides so we wash, rinse germicides, and that helps with the COVID. And then we have to wash it or wipe it down with a dry cloth. After we’ve let it sit for five minutes, but for the most part we’re doing the same practices we’ve done for years, keeping kids safe and healthy,” said Cravotta.
Though she’s added extra steps to her cleaning routine this year, she’s most looking forward to laughter in the lunchroom again.
“It’s crazy but happy just to hear their voices. You don’t realize how much you can guess that when you did see them last year wearing a mask and coming through, grabbing their bags, and having to go away from us. So, yeah, it’s gonna be so exciting to have them all here,” said Cravotta.
“On August 16th, Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) issued a Public Health Order (PHO) requiring masks to be worn inside all schools and child care settings, PK-12 for all individuals age 2 and older regardless of vaccination status. Starting August 17, all Jeffco Public Schools students, staff, visitors, and volunteers must wear masks while indoors in our schools and district buildings.”
Principal Josh Griffin also said that they’re going to refrain from assigned seating as much as possible and want lunchtime to be a fun and relaxing time with friends.
But there’s another challenge facing lunchroom staff beyond cleanliness.
The labor shortage doesn’t stop short of the school lunchroom, instead of too many cooks in the kitchen, D’Evelyn school is lacking the lunchroom staff they need.
Initially picking up a shift in the lunchroom to be near her kids, Cravotta when they started school and that was 20 years ago.
Now she runs the place and has one other staff member. She says usually there’s a team of three so they could really use an extra hand.
Principal Griffin, said in this case, you might say quality over quantity.
The principal of D’Evelyn said students will just have to be understanding if it takes a little bit longer at the register.
“We’ve had a hard time hiring and certain service support service areas and throughout our school district, Kelly, we’re just so fortunate to have her. She’s an amazing kitchen manager and has managed ebbs and flows and employment and personnel so well. It’ll, you know at the end of the day if the lines are a little bit different, like that might have a slight impact on service time but knowing Kelly it’s going to be super quick and I’m not worried as far as health and safety goes,” said Griffin.