Off-Campus Senior Lunch and the Benefits of Student Freedoms

With seniors recently given the liberty of off-campus dining, it is important to highlight the benefits of the administration’s recent move and the freedoms students may fight for next.


A view of Kinnelon High School and its parking lot.

Adviser’s Note: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this opinion article belong solely to the author and do not reflect the view of The Colt Chronicle Staff, Kinnelon High School, or its students and staff members.

Starting in late January, seniors will be given the opportunity to enroll in an off-campus, open lunch program. This privilege results from the student council and executive board members expressing the widespread desire for the program to administration over the past several months. The issue was brought in front of the Board of Education and administration by Marissa Kosco and other executive board members where it was finally approved. With this new program, students and the community at large ought to contemplate the benefits of increased freedom.

Local Business Benefits

The new policy will undoubtedly provide an increase in business for local establishments. After the economic havoc, COVID wreaked on small businesses, it is beneficial to have a program that allows students to frequent local eateries.

In tandem with the boost to multinational corporations, such as the local McDonald’s and Wendy’s, the most exciting benefits will trickle down to the local economy. Local eateries such as Taste of Reality, G&A Bagels, and Kinnelon Bagels will experience an influx of patrons during the quieter hours of 9:30 a.m. to 12:20 p.m.

Bubbakoo’s Burritos is experimenting with new hours to accommodate the incoming wave of students. Matt Hausler, a manager at Bubbakoo’s said, “We are experimenting with opening at 10:30 a.m. instead of 11 a.m. to test the potential of KHS open lunch.” Many restaurants open at 11 a.m. around the area, but if the new hours at Bubbakoo’s prove profitable, it will continue to open at 10:30 a.m.

The Student-Driven Basis for the Initiative

The colloquialism “Rome was not built in a day” is apt in describing the adoption of off-campus lunch. Senior and executive board president Marissa Kosco was a leading figure in the administration and Board of Education’s approval of the policy.

Initially, Kosco said, “I talked about it with my friends a lot and Mrs. [Danielle] Elia.” Eventually, Kosco brought it to administration and recounts that “Mr. [Gary] Suda kind of liked it and then we brought it up to the superintendent and he was super open to the idea.”

Allowing seniors to eat off campus has, of course, incredible popularity among the senior class. Kosco notes that friends were a large motivator in pushing for the policy. “I wish I had thought of the idea in the summer. I ended up presenting it late in the fall because my friends really wanted me to do it.” 

Off-campus lunch policy required multiple levels of deliberation and approval to be instituted. Kosco said, “They do these focus groups where the superintendent comes with a bunch of teachers and students. After one of the meetings, a teacher told me that it was a really good idea but it was never going to happen. But then it did.”

Certain teachers were not sure if the policy would work. Kosco said, “…Sappio kept saying ‘but what if this happens, or this’ and I would just say ‘well then we’d stop the program.’” Despite concerns of failure, the program was still given approval as a pilot program.

The policy had to jump over many logistical hurdles to come to fruition. The school gleaned policies from other successful systems during the construction of the current policy. Kosco said, “We got documents from other schools, so a lot of the stuff that is in ours is grabbed from what we liked from other schools.”

Local Dining Establishments

Some of the most popular eateries in and around Kinnelon include Kinnelon Bagel — more commonly referred to as K-Bagel — and G&A, another local bagel spot. With students being given the opportunity to eat lunch off-campus, there is no doubt that these establishments will experience an increase in lunchtime customers.

A Taste of Reality, known among students as “Taste,” will be similarly affected. “Taste” is home to a variety of sandwiches, making it an appealing option for those looking to order something other than the notorious Taylor ham, egg, and cheese from K-Bagel.  

Brought to Kinnelon recently was Bubbakoo’s Burritos, known for its Tex-Mex cuisine, as the name implies. The location was an instant hit as its menu contrasts starkly with those of other local establishments. 

The Future of Student Initiative

This new program will certainly affect local businesses positively, but how will it affect students? Since elementary school, students have been preparing for the changing school environment ahead of them. In 5th grade, students begin to “switch” classes in preparation for middle school.  This continued into middle school with supervised switching of classes and up into high school where students now switch freely. On the precipice of going to a new school, students have been given the opportunity to prove they are able to handle a greater level of freedom. At the end of high school, it begs the question: how are students prepared for college? Academically yes, but less can be said about the personal responsibilities that come with living on one’s own and being accountable for oneself. Off-campus lunch is fantastic for that reason. It allows students to begin the balancing act of freedom, academic responsibility, and personal leisure. 

Students are grateful for this opportunity, but KHS can include more programs such as the off-campus lunch to further prepare students for college life outside of academics. However, this comes with the assumption that all KHS students will behave responsibly when off of school grounds. Administrators have taken great lengths to ensure student accountability and on-campus security, and so the question of “will students behave?” has been at the forefront of the administration’s mind. KHS staff member Steven Papendick says, “I think when students are given responsibility at this age, most will rise to the occasion. That doesn’t mean everyone, but I think most students [will].”

Students are prepared for college courses through college prep, honors, and AP level classes, so if the off-campus lunch program is a success, the Board of Education should look into pursuing more opportunities to implement programs that help senior students develop the individual personal management skills and accountability that will help them succeed outside of their college lecture halls.