Cafeteria Under Construction: Highland Park Middle School Parents Not Happy

The Highland Park Middle School cafeteria’s kitchen will be unavailable through October, Highland Park iSD officials announced last week. (File photo: Chris McGathey)
The Highland Park Middle School cafeteria’s kitchen will be unavailable through October, Highland Park iSD officials announced last week. (File photo: Chris McGathey)

I meant to post this news last week but I forgot. The story, written by Dan “The Captain” Koller and published in Park Cities People, reports how some parents are pissed off  because the cafeteria at Highland Park Middle School is under construction and parents are responsible for providing lunches. I remembered I forgot the story last night when I was standing in my sister’s kitchen watching my 14-year old niece, Mia, assembling her lunch for her first day at Colleyville Heritage High School. (She also made her 16-year old sister’s lunch.) I relayed the subject of Dan’s story to my family. Needless to say, they were outraged.

I understand there are a lot of busy mom’s and making a lunch everyday may feel like one more chore on their to-do list. The parents were told last February that the expansion of the cafeteria would last into the fall semester, but last week officials announced that “design revisions and construction delays” have tacked another month onto the project. I encourage you to read the story. Here’s the money quote:

Because no food can be cooked until the cafeteria is completed, the district is asking parents to send their children to school with prepared lunches. Some parents are not happy about that.

“This is going to be a huge inconvenience for me as a working mom to have to make an interesting, healthy, and delicious lunch every day,” said Cynthia Smoot, whose son is in the eighth grade.

Smoot’s beef is not just about the demands on her time. Her son plays on the football team, and she said athletes like him need more to eat than, say, a turkey sandwich and a bag of chips. By the way, that’s exactly what will be brought from another campus if an HPMS/McCulloch student informs his teacher by 8:30 a.m. that he doesn’t have a lunch.

“It wouldn’t matter if I was Tracy Rathbun and whipping up the most delicious meal ever. After it sits in a hot locker for four or five hours, he’s not going to want to eat it,” Smoot said. “These kids involved in athletics, they’re exerting a lot of physical energy. And you have to have a lot of protein to keep your brain energized and ready to learn.”

Interesting points. But here is my thought: Parents have had six months to figure out a solution. Certainly someone could have figured this out before the first day of school. They should have asked Tracy Rathbun. IJS.

UPPITY DATE: Smoot says the parents were not notified in February. She says they received an email a week before school started.


  • Mike Truscott

    I think this answers any and all questions regarding this issue.

    • Nancy Nichols

      good answer.

  • Cynthia Smoot

    Parents weren’t given 6 months notice, we received an email a week before school started. Koller’s article missed the mark a bit. My complaint was not that I have to make a lunch, although I will admit I am not thrilled by the task. My complaint is that it is an outrage that HPISD so poorly mismanaged this project and now thousands of families are being affected. They’ve had 3 months with no one on the property to get that kitchen done. In fact, they are nowhere near completion and only have the sheetrock up. If they have it done by Xmas, I’ll be surprised. That’s poor planning, poor project management and for what I pay to live in this district – I expect better. Like I said in the article, it doesn’t matter how delicious the lunch is I send, after it’s been sitting in the bottom of a locker for 4 hours. It’s not going to be good, and thus won’t be eaten. These kids need to have their bodies and minds fueled to learn. HPSID is doing them a disservice. Shame on them.

    • Nancy Nichols

      So you weren’t informed in February?

  • Buddy

    Not really off topic but kinda, google ” what french school kids eat for lunch “. Eye opening.

  • Darren

    Um, are HPISD’s lockers outdoors? Why would they be hot?

    Protein bars do not require refrigeration.

    The real reason the parents are so up in arms is that it is an inconvenience.

  • Borborygmus

    I can see how a career “Blogging about Dallas hottest events and coolest people” would prevent her from throwing a Subway sandwich in her kids lunchbag the night before. However do the poor manage?

    Not Hot, Not Eaten sounds like a good sit-in demonstration slogan.

    The only thing funnier is the reference to Tracy Rathbun. Pretty sure on the days when Tracy just can’t get to packing lunches, her housekeeper can.

  • FWFoodie


    • Wes Mantooth


      My kids, who live in the slums of the RISD, have been taking their lunch to school for years. As the products of a dual-income household, they are further disavantaged by having to eat lunchtime sandwiches that have not been continuously refrigerated in a Sub-Zero refrigerator that costs more than my car. Perhaps that explains their hunchbacks and scurvy.

  • Scout

    Kids do need fuel in their bodies to learn, which is why it is so terribly sad that about 173,000 children in the North Texas region are chronically hungry. They go to bed hungry, they wake up hungry and they go to school hungry, and I bet they’re not going to Highland Park Middle School hungry. More like DISD, FWISD and school districts with much less money and parental “involvement.” I’m appalled that this parent is complaining about the school not providing a hot meal for her precious baby who would never eat a meal that’s been sitting in a locker for four hours. Have you seen a kid dig through trash to find food? Have you ever really seen hunger, Cynthia Smoot? I think that project mismanagement is never a good thing but suck it up. If you think you pay too much for this shoddy service, then leave. DISD needs parental volunteers . . make you can drive kids to school since they don’t have enough school busses.

  • Cynthia Smoot

    I’m not saying they didn’t tell us about the project in February. Although I have no specific recollection about the communication. We got an email a week before school stared saying that the project wouldn’t be completed until the end of Oct. (maybe longer) and that we would need to send our children with a lunch. Again, my issue is with the time management of the project. Not about making a lunch.

  • Downtownist

    That article is pure comedic gold.

  • Dubious Brother

    My children all preferred to take their own lunch – their friends would even mooch off them.

    This situation sounds like a good opportunity for food trucks that could use some business right now.

    • Corky Luxembourg

      Awesome idea! Food trucks for kids. I’m in.

  • J.R.

    How absurd. Parents (particularly ones who read this blog) should welcome opportuntiy make their kids lunches with tasty and healthy chow rather than the crap they serve at MIS. My kid plays football at MIS also (6:30 am) and we find a way to get it done. Ms. Smoot certainly has more important things to bitch about, right? Please quit furthering the sterotype.

  • Greg Brown

    I sure feel Cynthia’s pain. The mortgage on their house, combined with the BMW and Mercedes payments, vacations in the Virgin Islands, and an extensive wine collection must make if very difficult to afford to put food on the table. I’ve even heard rumors that there are people that can’t afford food–and they don’t even have house and car payments! I know! Crazy, right!?!?!?!?

    Oh, and can we get an uppitty uppitty date that this person did know she would have to actually prepare a lunch for her child back in February?

    • twinwillow

      Why can’t she just get the maid or nanny fix the kid’s lunch?

    • Corky Luxembourg

      It’s the rich people that cause all the problems. If we raised taxes to 90%, maybe we could all be poor! Then all these kids would have sack lunches prepared for them by the government. Problem solved.

  • Monte Malone

    When I went to DISD way back in the 20th century, I ate whatever I made myself for lunch. Usually pb&j and whatever not totally stale chips/cookies I could find.
    Expect my mother to prepare it for me? I would have starved to death.
    Somebody needs to pop that bubble quick.

  • primi timpano

    So many options:

    Show the kid how to order pizza on his cellphone and credit card.

    Find a Target and get directions to where the coolers are displayed. There are both hard and soft shell lunch size models. Don’t forget the blue ice.

    Get the school to rent a food truck.

    • Nancy Nichols

      The school district dismissed the food truck idea. They need to feed 1,000 kids an hour. Plus, they can’t do order-in. I’m with you on the coolers. Even I have one.

  • Mavdog

    OK, let me do a quick recap:
    The HPISD maybe did tell every student and their family last February the middle school cafeteria would be offline for the month of September, and the HPISD then told every middle school student and their family a week before school began that it would be an additional month until the cafeteria would be finished. An extra month…

    A parent is quoted as saying “This is going to be a huge inconvenience for me as a working mom to have to make an interesting, healthy, and delicious lunch every day”. That same parent is further quoted “It wouldn’t matter if I was Tracy Rathbun and whipping up the most delicious meal ever. After it sits in a hot locker for four or five hours, he’s not going to want to eat it. These kids involved in athletics, they’re exerting a lot of physical energy. And you have to have a lot of protein to keep your brain energized and ready to learn.”

    Never mind that there are tens of thousands of student athletes across this great country who are taking their lunches full of “a lot of protein” with them to school each day, many of whom are making those brown bag lunches themselves, and sitting in their locker from when they get to school until lunchtime….not that difficult it would seem.

    now it’s all about “the time management of the project”. an extra 30 days! just unheard of there being a delay on a construction project.

    oh, the horror!

  • Amy Ahluwalia

    Here are some suggestions: Buy an insulated lunch cooler. has some good ones that are masculine ie black or navy blue. Put a small frozen icepack inside, and a cold water bottle (or Gatoraid or Coconut Water) to keep him hydrated and to keep the lunch cool. Two sandwiches on hearty bread stuffed with meat and cheese. Sprouts has excellent lunch meat (turkey, chicken, beef) with no nitrates or preservatives. Central Mkt. has good ones two. For variety, pack a huge scoop of Central Mkt. Chicken Salad or a meatball sandwich with meatballs from their deli counter. Add an extra protein-rich snack – ie a couple of hard-boiled eggs, or a peanut-butter/banana/nutella sandwich on soft whole-wheat bread (again, Sprouts “Seedsational” is excellent). Or try Raw Revolution Bars (at Whole Foods – amazing and healthy. Add some fruit and chips and whatever he likes. Let him make his sandwiches the night before and just assemble in the morning. Good luck. Hope this helps. I’ve raised two boys (one who ran track early a.m. and played football after school at Plano West) – both of whom refused/refuse to eat school lunches.

  • allison

    My mom made me pb&j on wheat bread, included a fruit cup that’s sold at room temperature or an actual piece of fruit (depending on the season), a sandwich bag with 3 cookies and a box of 100% juice. It wasn’t refrigerated before I went to school or when I was at school and sometimes my sandwich got smushed. I ate it every single school day anyway and I survived. She presorted everything but the sandwich into kraft paper lunch sacks the night before (a less than 5 minute task) and only had to make the sandwich that morning. I think you can make one in under 1 minute. FYI, My parents worked about 80 to 100 hours a week EACH.

    It can be done.

  • Dan Koller

    The district communicated the September closure in February, as did Park Cities People:

    The closure through the end of October was the surprise just before school started.

  • Amy Ahluwalia
  • Amy Ahluwalia

    So true!! ;o)

  • Amy Ahluwalia
  • Dan Koller

    Looking back with 20-20 hindsight, our February headline should have been about the cafeteria not being finished in time for the start of school, as opposed to being about the district seeking bids.

  • OhSoNotCynthia

    This is a stupendous answer. Make her mayor.

  • fellowHPmom [email protected]

    I just threw up in my mouth a little.

  • Marcus Cady

    They will all have a Yeti soon. That will keep all the food cool. At HPHS, I would buy a large sub at NY Sub for dinner and eat the other half for lunch. Oh, that was in ISS.

  • Marcus Cady

    Also as a 36 year old attorney, I brownbag a few days a week. Although, I may opt for Kuai or other tunnel options downtown.

  • LJT

    Gosh, I must be super mom! I manage to pack a healthy, interesting lunch daily for my child with ease. And I’m a SINGLE working mom (trump!) It takes some planning, organization and a little creativity, but somehow I pull it off. Somebody call the WAAAAAmbulance for Ms. Smoot.

  • primi timpano

    I would also suggest a lunch day of chocolate bars and other highly desired candy, gum, etc. on this day the child will either eat a lot of bad stuff or learn to develop his or her negotiating and trading skills.

  • primi timpano

    I would think a mother might take a meaningful degree of pleasure preparing a school lunch for her children. I fear for the children who get their lunch from Mom or Dad because it is thankless task imposed by an inconsiderate school. I have to assume the same lack of love and joy will accompany these children’s family meals.

  • TLS

    I find Smoot’s outrage at having to provide her kid lunch everyday, all by her little self, absolutely disgusting. Does she know that over 11,000 kids (ELEVEN THOUSAND) in Dallas wait in line to get food for the weekend because they won’t have enough to eat before school starts again on Monday. I bet many would take a 4 hour old sandwich anytime. Or maybe let them eat cake!

    • Corky Luxembourg

      Exactly. A classless society is the underlying theme here.

  • Dubious Brother

    Mike Huckabee had 2 guests on his show several months ago. A Black man and an older White woman. They lived in Manhattan and his home life was a mess. He was poor and she was not. They randomly met on the street one day when he was 10 or so and said he was hungry. Instead of walking by or ignoring him as usual that day she took him to a McDonalds and fed him. She ended up taking an interest in him and helping him as he grew up – he is now a productive happily married father of several children and she is still a part of his family. His best memory of her help when he was growing up was she would make a lunch for him to take to school everyday which for him represented to the others at school that he had someone at home that loved him enough to make his lunch. I never did get the book.

    • DGirl

      Wow, that is an awesome story.

  • A. B.

    The meal you pack can easily withstand half a day in a locker. I send peanut butter crackers, granola bars, fruit, cheese sticks, carrots, drinks, cookies, apple sauce, pasta salad, soup in a thermos, etc. I’ve also been known to send yogurt. All of these items are shelf-stable or can be kept cool well past lunchtime with a frozen coldpack (or just freeze a Capri Sun or bottle of water; it will keep everything cold and will thaw by lunch time). Pack the lunch, or better yet have your child do it, the night before and keep it in the fridge overnight to keep it chilled. You don’t have to send sushi and let it rot in a locker all day. You also don’t have to pack something ‘interesting, healthy and delicious’ every day. Your child will survive! If your kid plays sports before or after school send a box of granola bars or protein bars to keep in his locker. When the box is empty he can let you know it is time for a new box. The lockers aren’t ‘hot’–they are in the school, which is kept at a comfortable temperature in the low 70s. Much ado about nothing. Carry on.

  • Critic

    My mother appreciated that I made my own lunch for school each day. All my friends and I carried dorky Huckleberry Finn metal lunch pails with a thermos’ full of wine or a cocktail to be shared with each other. As Seniors this was the coolest way to make it thru the afternoon. The school staff never knew. My mom did comment that the liquor seemed to evaporate from the liquor cabinet. See, a brown bag lunch can be creative!

  • chh

    Ms Smoot, you should be ashamed of yourself. Plain and simple.

  • lunchmom

    In defense of Cynthia and all other parents who were surprised by this: the February eblast (yes, there was one) stated that the district and the PTA would come up with a solution for serving lunch while the cafeteria was down. Here’s the exact wording:
    “Work on the project is scheduled to begin in March and continue through the end of September. Food service will not be interrupted this school year, but the kitchen will not be operational until the end of September. School district and PTA leaders will work together to provide meal options during the transitional period. ”

    therefore, most parents really did not think about providing lunch until the second email the week prior to school. You also might want to read an article from a recognized medical association journal about the dangers of a brown bag lunch: “even with ice packs in the sack lunches, most of the lunch contents that were perishable were at unsafe temperatures. “More than 95% of them were in the danger zone,” Almansour says. “The average temperature was 62 degrees Fahrenheit.”

    To be safe, the perishable foods should have been at 40 degrees or below”

  • TLS

    Oh, geez. Give the kid an MRE and be done with this nonsense.

  • A. B.

    Puh-leeze. The dangers of a brown bag lunch? It would logically follow that millions of people would get sick every day from perishable lunches. And they don’t. Again, much ado about nothing.

  • LJT

    Even if parents were notified only three days earlier, that’s plenty of time to get to a grocery store and find some sort of insulated lunch box/bag. You might have to go somewhere other than Neiman’s to find it “GASP!” but it can be done. It’s not complicated or, as you indicate, potentially fatal! For instance, my daughter’s lunch today was cold rotisserie chicken, cantaloupe, a boiled egg and apple sauce. Packed neatly and safely in a PlanetBox lunchbox with an ice pack. She has yet to become ill.

  • Andie

    Oh the humanity! How will they & their little darlings ever survive?

  • lunchmom

    Hey: I didn’t write the article, simply referencing it.. I was surprised to learn how many lunches were deemed “unsafe” in the Journal of Pediatrics study. I’m one to take my chances at a picnic myself – but in a large school setting it is just something to think about – Depending on how it is stored and how long it is stored.
    I”m adding a second icepack to be sure.