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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2007

Toledo 24: Finally time for lunch and recess

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

It s definitely time for a break.

Classes are half over for the day at St. John Paul School, and the tummies of the youngest students are growling fiercely, ready to be fed.

Plus, the children have the energy level of wriggling puppies and need some time to scamper around before learning more about their numbers, letters, and colors.

It s just before 11 a.m. at the Catholic elementary school on Warsaw Street in North Toledo, and the first lunch and recess period is about to begin.

But there s a problem. Rain has caused large, dirty puddles to form atop the blacktop where the students normally run and play. But because the cafeteria doubles as a gymnasium, it s ideal for indoor recess.

Excuse the interruption, but we will not be going out for recess today because it is raining and the parking lot is wet, Principal Tom Gladieux announced over the school s loudspeakers. So please do not bring your coats, gloves, and hats, but do bring a book or some game to play.

First up are the preschool through third-graders, whose break lasts from 11 to 11:30 a.m. After marching single-file down the stairs into the bustling cafeteria, students in each grade level sit together at long tables. It sounds easy, but it was a bit challenging ffor some.

Tell her I sit here, Terrel Bryant, 6, says to an adult while pointing at a classmate who was sitting at the end of the table in the seat he usually snags during lunchtime. Even though Alana Tidwell, 5, graciously moves around to the other side of the table across from Terrel s spot, the issues don t end there.

I ve got a girlfriend and your sister s not my girlfriend, he says to Alana.

Yes she is, you like her, she shoots back before licking ketchup from a chicken nugget and biting off the end.

Well, when you go home, tell her I don t like her anymore, says Terrel, his mouth full of mashed potatoes and gravy dripping out of the corner of his mouth.

OK, you must like me, Alana concludes, grabbing her container of milk and taking a big gulp.

Other kindergartners aren t interested in actually drinking their milk. Here s something I can do, yells Denkeis Hunter, 6, before taking a deep breath and blowing into his straw until tiny milk bubbles boiled over the top.

Most students say they enjoy the finger-licking-good cafeteria food, which on this Thursday also includes pears, green beans, and a breadstick.

We eat different things every day, says John Peek, 6, even though half the food on his Styrofoam plate remains untouched. I m not hungry because I ate a lot last night.

Though the kindergartners are well into their meals, other students are still waiting in line to receive their lunches. Grade levels take turns getting to be the first ones to start the lunch line each day, and the first to be ready for recess, Mr. Gladieux says.

When they re finished eating, many students sprint toward the stage, where they sit cross-legged in front of a big-screen TV that at the moment is tuned to Wonder Pets, an animated series where classroom pets save baby animals.

Other students draw funny faces with colored pencils, flip through Captain Underpants books, or play cards.

Devin Miller and Fred David, both 9, are two of the students playing with a deck of cards. But their deck is still inside its plastic case.

Bundye, they fiercely shout back and forth while quickly sliding the case across the table to one another.

If someone drop it off the table, they out, explains Damondre Marsenburg, 9, who invented the game he calls bundye in 2006. I was just bored and some people didn t know the games that I play, so I taught them bundye because it s more easier to teach.

Suddenly, a shrill bell rings and the younger students file out and are replaced by children in grades four through eight, whose lunch and recess period begins at 11:30 a.m.

For them, the TV station gets switched to ESPN and the chicken nuggets are replaced with sliced turkey.

Eighth-grader Jessica Mireles, 14, says she s glad to see that the cafeteria workers are not serving cheeseburgers. I don t like cheeseburgers at all, she says. I usually eat fries or whatever else they have that day.

While the room is still noisy from all the older students talking at once, there s a distinct sound coming from a corner table. Several seventh-graders who are waiting their turn to be served from the lunch line are slapping the table in rhythm to the Pretty Ricky song they re murmuring.

Meanwhile, some students have already inhaled their food and are ready for recess, though the lunch period began less than 10 minutes ago.

Two sixth-graders begin tossing a squishy ball in the shape of a skull back and forth in one corner. Other classmates join the game as they finish eating. Similar to bundye, the student who drops the ball during the game is out and has to wait until a new game begins to play again.

Fifth-graders gaze woefully at the sixth-graders game from one of the lunch tables while reading and doodling. We re not allowed to play with the sixth graders, Rebecca Hall, 10, says. We got our ball taken away because we were throwing it too crazy and too far.

Mr. Gladieux says he doesn t encourage the students to intermingle between grade levels because it creates too much competition.

So when the bell clangs, signaling the end of recess, the students are still segregated by grade level as they line up and file out of the cafeteria. They re headed back to their classrooms to learn more during the afternoon while waiting for their next big break: the end of the school day.

Contact Erika Ray at: eray@theblade.comor 419-724-6088.



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