At many high schools, students head to the school cafeteria, eat lunch in a 45-minute time period, and then continue classes.
At De La Salle Collegiate, however, lunchtime is a full hour.
No, not because boys are slow eaters or need more time to consume multiple slices of pizza.
The full-hour accommodates a new lunchtime program, called Inflight, giving students the opportunity to use a portion of their time in a variety of ways:
- Checking into any one of more than 30 clubs. See the list
- Heading to subject-specific teacher-led tutoring sessions.
- Sitting quietly in a designated area and preparing for a test.
- Playing softball outside (seniors only).
- Doing homework.
- Hanging out with friends in designated areas of the building.
- Participating in Intra-Mural (IM) Sports
- And, eating lunch.
How did DLS go from a traditional lunchtime slot to this robust program?
Assistant Principal Christopher Dean, ‘89, explained the evolution of the new lunchtime format.
“During 2020-21, our first year back from COVID, with masking and social distancing, students weren’t allowed to eat lunch in the Cafeteria and were together in their Advisory (Homerooms). The following year, 2021-22, we continued the 30-minute model - upperclassmen eating first, in the cafeteria, and then going to Advisory, and the reverse for underclassmen.”
Meanwhile, a team of faculty members, administrators, alumni, and parents met during the 2021-22 school year and worked on a five-year strategic plan. Three separate committees focused on the Student Experience, Marketing and Enrollment, and Funding.
The Student Experience group proposed enhancements to the extra-curricular offerings, an important aspect of the high school experience.
But with a student body representing 57 different zip codes in 40 communities, ranging from Armada and Auburn Hills to Berkley and Bloomfield Hills, from Lake Orion to Oakland Township, after-school participation can be challenging.
So, the Student Experience team recommended organized time during the school day for activities, clubs, and opportunities to build students’ sense of belonging to De La Salle, alternating with the Advisory sessions, called “Boarding.”. Students who might miss meetings because of after-school sports practices, jobs, and transportation issues would be able to participate.
A byproduct of the COVID experience, where students ate lunch by grade level, rather than eating whenever they had a free period, had already set the stage to create a more enhanced lunch hour.
“The consistent feeling of ‘brotherhood’ and ‘togetherness’ by doing things as a class (such as sharing a meal and participating in activities together) enhanced the DLS experience,” Dean said.
Dean said that the resurrection of the DLS Chess Club last winter, attracting over 40 students at a time, helped propel the creation of the robust lunchtime offerings.
If It’s Day 1, It Must Be Chess Club?
Veteran faculty member Lindsey Tula organized the program and created a “Club Fair” during orientation.
“Essentially, students could see what was offered in an ‘open house’ style,” Tula said. “One of the benefits of this was to introduce to freshmen and new students the possibilities that exist.”
Tula oversees the effort, with an online schedule document, as well as a hallway bulletin board that identifies activities and rooms. Each club has its own Google Classroom website.
- Most of the clubs meet at least once during the seven-day schedule, although some are seasonal, like the Ski and Snowboard Club.
- Some clubs, like the Business Club, are geared to upperclassmen
- Chess, Board Games, and E-Sports are so popular that they meet during both sessions. Counselor Andrew Campbell said, “The Chess Club is exploding! We meet twice a week, and usually have at least six games going.” He is looking at competition opportunities and hopes DLS will eventually host its own chess tournament.
- The club list includes religious activities, such as Sacramental preparation, science-related groups like the Medical Club, and musical interests: choir and Pep Band.
- Traditional activities, like the Student Council, National Honor Society, school newspaper, and yearbook, are also incorporated into the lunchtime mix.
- While nearly every activity is open to any student, some activities are by “invitation only.” Students in need of academic support are steered to these sessions.
- Club offerings are flexible, and additional ones may be added as the school year goes along.
- The DLS Counseling Department is scheduling college visits during the lunchtime hour, eliminating the once cumbersome process of students signing up in advance and getting a pass to miss class.
- Counselor Aaron Solomon, who coordinates the college visit schedule, said the lunchtime format allows students of any grade to attend, not just upperclassmen.
“I have had more than eight freshmen at all the college visits so far,” Solomon said. “They are able to start getting college information early in their high school careers.”
In addition to the small group sessions, the block of time allows for full-grade-level meetings in the gym.
To track attendance, students scan their IDs as they enter the classroom.
Information Technology Director Sheryl Anderson said the scanning system is part of the school’s information system Infinite Campus. She says that students are getting used to scanning themselves in during lunchtime, whether to advisory or a club, and eventually, will scan themselves into each academic class.
Anderson herself is moderating a cybersecurity group that will eventually compete in a series of online competitions to find and fix cybersecurity vulnerabilities.
“Lindsey Tula has put countless hours into making this work,” said Science teacher Mary Balamucki, who moderates the Medical Club.
Balamucki said her group was able to add HOSA (Health Occupation Students of America), a group that helps students learn about the health professions. Balamucki says that HOSA, like DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America), holds competitions. The Medical Club is currently working on the annual Blood Drive, scheduled for December 5.
Sophomore Gabe Enghauser proposed the Rocketry Club, and Tula says, “Many of the ideas for clubs are coming from the students themselves. We are taking those ideas and tailoring them to fit into the Advisory period and include as many students as possible.”
Post-Covid, faculty member Scott Grimmer began lunchtime softball for seniors only. Now in its third season, Grimmer says it is something students look forward to as a “seniors only” privilege.
Coaches also use the time for pre-season sessions, gauging student interest, and explaining team requirements and tryouts.
And for students interested in intra-murals (IM), the lunchtime block enables more students to participate. Faculty members Joe Novak and Steve Schypinski organize the IM schedule, which eliminates the early morning and after school times of the past, times which made participation difficult for many underclassmen. Novak said approximately 100 students participated in the recently concluded floor hockey season and numbers are healthy for cornhole competitions.
Alumnus Ian Cicchini, ‘10, moderates the E-Sports team and says the additional time helps students familiarize themselves with the technology, including computers and play stations, in a non-competitive environment. The DLS E-Sports team was ranked in the top 8 out of over 100 other teams in the Eastern United States in their first year of competition in 2022-23.
Dean said, “One of the most unique things about the DLS experience is that there are opportunities for students to demonstrate and showcase their talents with a wide spectrum of activities.”