Adding to the morning chaos at Wentworth School on the south side: breakfast in a bag.
Principal Dina Everage said that while it does take time to get everyone fed, breakfast is worth it, because kids are eating.
The kindergartners are the only ones that eat in the cafeteria. The rest of the students take their bags straight to class.
Everage admitted that the new initiative is cutting into instructional time, but “breakfast for students, I think, far outweighs the couple minutes we may lose."
She said her community does have more than its share of struggling families.
But having schools provide a morning meal in the classroom for every student is not just a response to poverty, according to the new head of Chicago Public Schools.
"We have a problem, right?” new CEO of CPS Jean-Claude Brizard asked. “We have a large number of kids who may not, may not, be getting a quality breakfast every day. I will never assume that poor people do not eat breakfast every day, because I grew up poor, and we had breakfast every morning!”
Even though Brizard likes the idea of the program he inherited with the job, he is listening to parents, and some don't like it.
“I always worry when we try to do a one-size-fit-all kind of policy, that worries me,” Brizard said. “I like to give principals autonomy on doing what we know has to work.”
Just as students get to choose between a hot or a cold lunch, critics said schools should have a choice. In more affluent neighborhoods, hunger may not be a big problem and mandatory breakfast in the classroom is leaving them cold.
“I do think it that wastes classroom time, and also I don't think the food is very healthy, and a lot of these kids already had breakfast at home and they're having breakfast again at school,” local mother Srisupen Anderson said.
Double breakfast does raise that childhood obesity question, as does the quality of the breakfast.
“My one daughter did take breakfast cause she wanted to, one day,” mom Carolynn Fisher said, “And she said it was disgusting.”
“So I saw French toast sitting in an inch of syrup,” Brizard said. “That bothered me.”
By the new boss' order, nutritional changes are already underway. The Wentworth breakfast choices FOX Chicago News sampled this week served pancakes with a little jelly instead of syrup, and the cold cereal was not captain sugar pants.
But by far the most unappetizing part of this meal was “the fact that we have one of the shortest school days in the country, and we're now making it shorter,” as Fisher put it.
At schools like La Salle Language Academy on the north side, hunger is not a major issue.
When the mandatory classroom breakfast started last month, some parents were in an uproar. They accused CPS of trampling on their rights.
Brizard said he hopes they'll have more patience, because “we have the summer to work on this, and by fall there'll be quite a bit of changes.”
In fact, after two weeks, more than 200 kids here are choosing to eat breakfast in class every day.
“As a mother of three children it's very hard to get out of the house on time,” Megan Graziano-Serafini said. “So it's great if they could eat breakfast at school.”
If managed correctly, maybe it will prove convenient for some, and crucial for others.
“How do you even begin to reach or teach, when you haven't fulfilled those basic needs that students come here with?” Everage asked. “So for some students it is just as simple as, my belly is growling so I’m growling with it."