Bit by bit, breakfast at school was eating into instructional time.
Students would chat for 20 to 30 minutes every morning in the school cafeteria over their biscuits and gravy and French toast.
Slow eating and talkative students would be late to class, taking their time and coming to the classroom after the tardy bell, missing announcements and morning work.
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Added up, some students in elementary schools in Franklin were losing more than a week in instructional class time over a year by having daily breakfasts in the cafeteria, principals said.
“Breakfast was becoming this long, drawn out period of time,” Sandra Brown, principal at Union Elementary School said.
A program called Breakfast in the Classroom has been implemented slowly during the past few years in most elementary schools in Franklin.
Instead of having leisurely breakfasts in the cafeteria, now students who eat their first meal at school can grab a piece of fruit and a sandwich and eat their breakfast while learning.
The program has increased participation in Franklin elementary schools’ breakfast program, making students more alert and focused in school after eating.
One principal is crediting the program with increasing instructional time and helping to raise standardized test scores in the past few years.
A majority of the students who were eating breakfast in the cafeteria at Needham Elementary School were on the free or reduced-price lunch program.
That population of students was more in need of both breakfast and more instructional time in the classroom, Kent Pettet, principal at the school, said.
“They were really needing more time in the classroom,” he said. “(After breakfast), you are already behind, right off the bat.”
Breakfast was needed to make sure kids weren’t hungry all morning after missing breakfast at home, Pettet said.
After realizing students were missing 100 minutes a week in class time because of breakfast in the cafeteria, something had to change, he said.
That time amounted to about a week and a half of missed school every year, just from eating breakfast in the cafeteria every morning, Pettet said.
“At Needham, we talk about how every second matters. 3,800 is a lot of minutes to try and get back,” he said.
Pettet is crediting the program as one of the reasons the school has seen rises in test scores in previous years.
Moving breakfast to the classroom has allowed teachers to have more instructional time. More instructional time has meant higher standardized test scores for some students, he said.
“I can give a student a week or more of school back, just by moving breakfast to the classroom,” Pettet said.
Jill Overton, food services manager for Franklin schools, heard about other schools moving their breakfasts to the classroom at a conference. She researched the idea and found that most schools that participated had less disruptive starts to their school days.
Overton had to rethink breakfasts in some schools who opted to join the program, moving away from dishes such as biscuits and gravy and French toast to more portable breakfast sandwiches, burritos, pastries and fruit.
The change has resulted in a 10 to 15 percent increase in breakfast participation across the school district, said Overton.
“We are just trying to reach out and offer that opportunity,” she said.
At Creekside Elementary School, breakfast at school is advertised in the school newsletter nearly every month and parents are encouraged to allow students to eat at school.
The cost of breakfast at $1.35 for students paying full price and 35 cents for students on the reduced-price plan has made it an economical choice for parents to allow their students to eat breakfast at the school, said Mark Heiden, principal of Creekside.
“We don’t want any student to not eat breakfast,” he said.
Webb Elementary School students still eat breakfast in the cafeteria because students arrive slightly earlier than students at other schools, allowing them to have a breakfast in the cafeteria without missing class time, principal Cheryl Moran said.
“They aren’t missing any academic time,” she said. “If we felt like they were missing academic time, we would take (the program).”