Parents upset over lunchtime seating arrangement at Easton elementary school

An unusual debate is raging at an elementary school in our region--how best to seat children during lunchtime?

"It was immediately strange to me," mother, Joanne Papric, told FOX 29.

FOX 29's Bruce Gordon sat across from Joanne Papric and Julie Cassidy face-to-face as they described the lunchtime seating arrangement at their children's elementary school

At Shawnee all the kids sit on the same side of the tables, all facing front with no one sitting across from their friends.

So, what are these kids missing in this unusual arrangement?

"The socialization--being able to practice socializing in the cafeteria," Papric said.

Shawnee under principal Josephine Galloway has been doing it this way for years.

The principal, who declined our request for an interview, reportedly believes it makes it easier for monitors to keep an eye on misbehavior when kids face the same direction and also easier to spot children who might be choking on their food. It's the only elementary school in the district that does things this way.

"Is this the best method? And if it was, wouldn't we see the other schools using this method?" Cassidy said.

Papric and Cassidy made their case to "normalize" the lunchtime seating at the Easton school board meeting late last month, claiming Shawnee kids are missing out on a chance for unstructured conversation.

The district superintendent was unmoved by their argument.

"The building principal believes this is a good thing for the kids. That it's a good thing for the school. It has worked," School Superintendent John Reinhart said.

Papric and Cassidy admit they have faced some blow-back from other parents who wonder why lunchroom seating is such a big deal. They believe social skills learned early will become even more important later on.

"Every child has something wonderful to offer and they are not going to know that. Whether it's knowledge or personality, their culture to share, and they don't get that opportunity,"Papric said.