In a school year full of changes and cancellations, anything that can be somewhat normal is no longer taken for granted. This couldn’t be more true for lunch, a major aspect of the social life at PA. After a long spring of distance learning, students have enjoyed being back on campus for lunch with friends in the Great Room. 

Sophie Koch ‘22 reflected, “Being away from school made me realize how much the social part of school means to me. I enjoy being able to take a break from paying attention in class to catch up with friends at lunch. The good food is a bonus as well, of course!”

Emma Kelly ’22 and Nina von Dohlen ’22 enjoy lunch at the socially distanced tables in the Great Room.

Preserving the lunchtime culture of PA meant many months of preparation over the summer.

Maureen Murphy, longtime Providence nurse, stated, “Coming back to school definitely took a lot of planning. We knew the importance of having students on campus, so we had to sift through the information from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Minnesota Department of Health to plan the safest way to do so.”

Planning the best way to go about lunch was a difficult task, but, together with custodial staff and other administrators, Headmaster Dr. Todd Flanders and Murphy made it work. Due to the fact that everyone removes their masks to eat, PA had to be certain there was enough distance among students during lunchtime. 

Emma Millerbernd ’27, Kate Hudson ’27, Fianna Sanvik ’27, and Claire Wikenheiser ’27 enjoy Chef Morris’ Santa Fe Rice Bowl at lunch!

Murphy said, “We wanted to make sure we maintained the social aspect of school while staying socially distanced because socialization at school is key to the students’ enjoyment. This is especially important in the lunch room because it is a time where there is a break in the learning for students to enjoy time with their friends.”

Flanders came up with a plan that would allow for both the safety of students and the normalcy of lunch in the Great Room. Instead of having eight to ten students per round table, custodial staff organized the tables so that there are now two students per table to keep distance. Although having so few kids per table seems like it would be awkward, it has been successful in promoting conversation.

One PA parent reflected on the new change saying, “At first I was a little bit nervous that lunch would not be the same environment that it normally is, but my daughter has enjoyed conversation with two students per table; I think that [it’s] easier and more enjoyable in some ways.”

Socialization is not the only thing PA students and faculty are glad to have back during lunch period. Chef Marshall Morris’ daily creations, like classics such as Santa Fe Rice Bowl, Buffalo Chicken Basket, and Fish Tacos, bring many smiles to the Great Room.

Morris’ new menu items like Pork Ramen Bowl and Buffalo Chicken Flatbread prove that not all changes have to be bad!

Morris remarked, “I love making new lunches for students to try. I like to give them the opportunity to try new foods they maybe have never tried before.”

Keeping everyone safe and healthy is no easy task in these strange times. From to-go packaging for lunchtime favorites, to individually wrapped silverware, overflow seating in the multi-purpose room, to sanitation routines for custodial staff, COVID has altered daily life in the Great Room. 

“But,” as Morris pointed out, “the kitchen staff have been a great help and everyone has adjusted well. We are just glad to be back in the kitchen!”