‘Longer’ lunch break will be remembered

My husband and I took his two-year-old grandson, Gabriel, up the street for lunch on Thursday, Feb 13. We went to D’Ottavio’s on The Diamond in Hollidaysburg. It was filled with about 20 sixth graders and one teacher assistant/chaperone from Longer Elementary.

At first, I thought, “oh, no.” This may turn out to be a loud, chaotic, annoying lunch. I entertained the idea of going elsewhere, but our car was parked, and Gabriel loves pizza, so we made our way to the back of the room and sat down.

Turns out that these students were beautifully behaved, joyful, happy to be out and about. They seemed to be respectful and kind to their classmates and their adult supervisor.

I much enjoyed their camaraderie and appreciated their enthusiasm.

I commented to the chaperone on how cheerful and kindhearted all the kids seemed to be. She told me that all four sixth-grade classes at Longer Elementary were divided by their own personal eating preferences to go to one of four restaurants in downtown Hollidaysburg for lunch that day.

She explained the other three-quarters of the cumulative sixth grade classes were at other restaurants in town enjoying their lunches at the same time.

I joyfully taught elementary school, mostly first grade, for about 35 years in Altoona, moving from one lovely old brick elementary school to another, as neighborhood schools were being closed and sold or demolished all over the city to make way for larger, more modern buildings to which many students had to be bused.

It occurred to me that this lunch extravaganza for a total of about 80 sixth graders, who attended the same elementary school building, were given about an hour and a half off, in the middle of winter, to go off for lunch according to their personal choices of four different eating establishments in one sweet, relatively small town.

What a fun way to get a break from the school day in the bleak midwinter and be able to choose the local eating establishment of your choice and have the opportunity to bond with other students from your class level — even if you may not have been assigned to the same classroom at the school.

We were packing up the baby and leaving the restaurant about the same time that the students were paying for their lunches and gathering together outside the restaurant to, I assume, board a bus back to school.

We got in our car that was parked just a couple of spaces from the entrance to the pizza shop. When we drove by the students, most of them, bright-eyed and happy for the break from classes, flashed us happy smiles and waved us off to home.

Even Gabriel smiled and waved back.

Paulette Jo Frederick



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