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Jacksonville school lunchroom safety concerns

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Updated: 2/18 11:47 pm
JACKSONVILLE, Fla.-- Parents came to Action News saying they are worried about overcrowding creating a fire hazard in the cafeteria at a local high school.

Inside First Coast High School Tuesday, Tracy Batten was fired up. "It makes no sense to me," said Batten. Batten says the school is putting her daughter and other students at risk by overcrowding the cafeteria during lunch. She showed us a picture of the capacity sign. "The seating capacity is 674," said Batten.

She says hundreds more than that are scheduled to eat lunch everyday in the cafeteria. With a few calls to the school, we found out the new principal cut daily lunch periods from four a day down to two. So we did the math. There are 2,140 students are enrolled. With two lunch periods a day, that means 1,070 kids per lunch. That is more than the 674 person capacity for the cafeteria.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti told Action News he trusts the principal's decision to make the change. "The principal made the decision to reduce lunches in order to decrease movement and disruption from having multiple lunches," said Vitti.

But there's another problem. In an email to a spokesman at JFRD, we asked if the overcrowding was a fire safety hazard. He responded "yes, the placards are there for a reason."

We started making calls on these concerns last week. This week, Tuesday, the principal told Action News they started opening up the gym for students at lunch. One parent just worries what would happen in a real emergency. "Kids wouldn't be able to get in and out in a timely fashion," said Batten

A school spokesperson also told Action News they sent their own people in to look at this situation three separate times, but found no issues. The reason, they say, was that students can go to other areas then just the cafeteria. We were also told the school doesn't physically count every child in the cafeteria everyday.
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ohnonotagain - 2/19/2014 3:28 PM
1 Vote
This is ridiculous! The lunch room was already crowded before they "reduced the number of lunch periods"! More kids crammed into the same area at the same time. Not only a fire hazard-but a general personal safety hazard. Reminds me of the beginning of the school year when they "underestimated enrollment" & kids were sitting on the floor or standing in classrooms-no actual schoolwork was started in many classes for weeks because they had to wait for schedules to be switched. Another stellar performance from First Coast High :(
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