Comfy seating in the cafeteria at Lutheran North  allows for students to feel more relaxed outside of class.

Comfy seating in the cafeteria at Lutheran North allows for students to feel more relaxed outside of class.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Today’s menu: tech with a side of chitchat

Modern school cafeterias are built with all the trimmings

By: Tiffany Esshaki | C&G Newspapers | Published October 16, 2019

 Lutheran North seniors Emma Schulz and Bella Chirco hunker down on the  new risers at lunchtime

Lutheran North seniors Emma Schulz and Bella Chirco hunker down on the new risers at lunchtime

Photo by Deb Jacques

 Chairs and tables on rollers allow students to configure their social circle as they please during lunch at Lutheran North Christian High School Oct. 8.

Chairs and tables on rollers allow students to configure their social circle as they please during lunch at Lutheran North Christian High School Oct. 8.

Photo by Deb Jacques

METRO DETROIT — Now in her senior year at Lutheran North Christian High School in Macomb Township, Emma Schulz, 17, started showing up to school a few minutes earlier than normal this fall.

She’s not always working on extra credit or college applications — though there’s plenty of that happening — but at Lutheran North, the recently renovated cafeteria is the hot new place to hang out.

The classrooms of today look a lot different than they did even just a decade or two ago.

School boards and parent fundraising groups work hard to make sure their students are able to learn with the most up-to-date and efficient education tools available, and much of the time, that means more access to digital devices.

But as many of us know, life lessons extend well beyond the classroom during our formative years, and for modern students, doesn’t it just make sense to extend those improvements to the school spaces where kids spend their downtime?

That was the idea when Lutheran North decided to make renovations to the cafeteria space. While they were knocking down walls, they thought it might be worth their time to improve some of the classrooms and even the extra seating space just outside of the lunchroom.

When students returned to class in August, they were greeted with chic new lighting and a taller, more airy space with huge windows and a variety of seating options. From tiered risers to rolling stools and movable tables, Schulz said, the new cafeteria definitely encourages socialization.

“I feel like public schools have more circular seating that’s all on one level, or like those long tables where you can’t really have a conversation because you’re yelling down to someone at the end who can’t hear you. This is light and more modern,” she explained. “Everyone wants to do homework here and use all these new places. (I find) I’m more likely to come in and hang out before school or stay after school, instead of coming in right when the bell rings.”

Her senior Lutheran North classmate Gino Sorrentino, 17, noticed that the vibe of the new cafeteria seems more energetic since the renovation.

“I like it. It makes you feel better,” he said. “There’s not one type of seating. It’s more complex looking. It’s a good place to take a break.”

The idea of having a lunchroom that would promote a midday retreat from classroom rules and lesson plans is what Ferndale Public Schools kept in mind when it made the decision to refurbish the cafeteria in the high school.

“Lunch is their outlet, so they use that time to enjoy themselves: surf the web, chat with each other. It’s conducive to not just eating, but enjoying conversations,” said Principal Lisa Williams. “We’re trying to be kind of innovative in terms of providing access to those things with more modern amenities. We’re constantly evolving here.”

Along with more modern seating options, Ferndale High School included some high-tech upgrades in its cafeteria renovation. Big-screen televisions dot the walls, streaming school event notices and other administrative announcements. Electrical outlets and USB ports are plentiful to allow students to charge their devices, and digital screens display the day’s lunch menu.

“When these kids go to Starbucks to hang out and study with their friends, that’s what they see,” Williams explained. “It’s a café-style, relaxed environment. Of course, the kids love it.”

Williams added that another bonus of promoting the use of electronics in the cafeteria is that it’s easier for teachers and other staff to put a lid on devices during class time.

“We do have strict rules about when phones, tablets, laptops and those types of things can be used: before school, after school, during lunch and when allowed by teachers as part of a lesson,” she said. “It provides them an opportunity during lunch to catch up on social media and those things, when it’s more appropriate to be using those devices.”