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Hot Lunch!

A look into the lunchtime heat and what solutions Administration has
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Heat is no new issue for Phoenix residents.
But what was a frustrating, yet manageable experience for a few months of the year, has now mutated into a debilitating onslaught of heat waves and severe weather warnings.
And even with the most brutal summer months coming to a close, the heat has continued to make an impact, as the average temperatures in September still range in the mid 80’s. Compare this to the average temperature of places like Maine, which even in the dead of summer only reach the mid to high 70’s. This makes it painfully clear that the start of school does not mean an escape from the heat for students here at Sunnyslope, which has prompted the question of what administration has planned to deal with this issue.
The heat has the bulk of its impact at lunch time, as Sunnyslope’s cafeteria holds roughly 100 students, according to Assistant Principal for Operations Timothy Matteson, despite the total number of students enrolled at Sunnyslope was 2,324.
This means only 4% of the student body could sit in the cafeteria.
This discrepancy in the size of the cafeteria is due mainly to the fact that in the most recent remodeling of the building itself– its size was actually reduced to allow for more cooking space for Sunnyslope’s lunch staff, according to Matteson.
The cafeteria, built in 1953, was originally designed with more seating space and for a school that was on the outskirts of town — legally not even within the city limits of Phoenix.
In short: no one expected 2,000 students to need to use it.
What this means is that an overwhelming majority of students are forced to scavenge for any shade they can find as they eat lunch in Severe Weather warnings with temperatures ranging from 105 to 110 degrees.
“Lunch doesn’t feel like a break any more because it’s just so hot out,” said Senior Claire Calkins.
Others feel like the heat has an impact beyond even their time at lunch.
“The heat is just so draining that it makes me feel so unmotivated for the last half of the day,” said Senior Kiera Umble.
Luckily for Sunnyslope students though, administration does have a plan in place for counteracting the heat at lunch, although it doesn’t revolve around expanding the cafeteria, as some might think.
“Unless you were to build a massive cafeteria, the size of our new quad, there’s just no way we can fit [all of the students] inside at lunch,” said Matteson.
Rather, the administration’s plan for this issue is centered around the new construction that is already underway.
The new walkways between upper levels of the newest buildings have been specifically designed to create more shade coverage for students, and once construction is over, there will be picnic tables and benches placed beneath the overhead walkway to allow students to eat lunch there, according to Matteson.
“By doing this, we can at least get a lot of [students] out of the direct sun at lunch,” said Matteson.
Administration also has further plans to continue adding shaded areas as Sunnyslope continues to be remodeled, whether it’s through trees or man-made structures, according to Matteson.
“Really it’s about providing shade coverage and not as much AC as we move forward, because [AC] is really not feasible with the space we have now,” said Matteson.
This plan from administration is a vitally necessary step in the right direction towards keeping students safe, as the average temperatures in Phoenix continue to break records annually, and it is unlikely this heat is going away in the coming years.
The New York Times even went as far as to refer to Phoenix’s heat as a “brutal test of endurance” for its residents, in a recent article.
The new building is set to be fully constructed with an outdoor seating area this October, and while it may be too late to combat this most recent heat wave, the building should hopefully provide relief for students in the coming years.

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