Students hungry for a café reopening

Signs to not enter and wear masks greet students who pass by the closed café, January 28th, 2021 – photo by Kethan Srinivasan

Pre-COVID,  between sunrise and first period, second and third, last period and sports, the café boosted student morale through long days. Home to warm breakfast sandwiches and snacks galore, students revered these grounds. 

     As students make their second semester push, they crave the café more than ever. But safety protocols enforced by Assistant Head of School Mr. Mark Thorburn and others have kept the cozy building across from Centennial Hall off limits.

     “I suspect that we will keep the space closed throughout the remainder of the year,” Upper School Head Mark Fifer said. 

     Students are upset about the café closure due to more than the delicious snacks.

“[Opening the café] would send a message that we are relaxing health and safety standards.”

Upper School head Mr. Mark Fifer

     “In the mornings I’m often running late due to a night of hard work, so I don’t have time to make breakfast,” Sixth Former Drew Loughnane said. 

     The café serves as a backup plan for those who need a kickstart to their day. 

     Sixth Form President Cyril Leahy agrees, and took this notion one step further: “I wake up and I realize I can be productive in the morning knowing my breakfast will be there.”

     Not only did students use the café as a backup plan, but they structured their mornings around having a warm bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich awaiting them. 

     Mr. Fifer said, “In normal years, the café is a nice break for students, a nice opportunity to connect with one another.”

Fourth Former baseball player walks by the closed café after school, January 28th 2021 – photo taken by Kethan Srinivasan ’21

     Regardless, mitigation practices are likely to remain constant throughout the year.

     “[Opening the café] would send a message that we are relaxing health and safety standards,” Mr. Fifer said. 

     Students aren’t ready to throw in the towel just yet. They’ve brainstormed a handful of COVID-19-friendly ways to reopen the café. 

     Fifth Former Damian Ferraro said, “A way we can safely and efficiently open the café is to have a time for each grade to go.” 

“Seeing Erin [Byrne] in the morning definitely puts a smile on my face.”

Drew Loughnane ’21

     Fourth Former Robert Murray added, “What if the café was open, but we regulated how many people were in there at once? Also get rid of the tables.”

     Despite initially shaking his head, Mr. Fifer received these student suggestions with an open mind. 

     “I have no objection to a grab-and-go model if it’s similar to what’s happening in the cafeteria,” Mr. Fifer said. 

Sign on café door tell students they are unable to enter, January 28th 2021 – photo taken by Kethan Srinivasan

     While the café provides students with a boost for their day, there’s a more important reason, and her name is Ms. Erin Byrne. 

     “Seeing Erin in the morning definitely puts a smile on my face,” Loughnane said. “Her positive outlook despite what’s going on in the world keeps my hopes up.”

     Students enjoy the company of the always energetic and passionate dining hall staff member, and she does too. Unfortunately, with the café closed, they do not see each other as often.  

     “I love the café,” Ms. Byrne said. “I had the best time there every day. That was my favorite part of the day.”

     Ms. Byrne suggested that students come visit her in the dining hall while the café remains closed: “We’ve got the snack cart. It’s not the greatest. But we have some really good drinks. Tell everybody to come in more often!”

     It is unlikely that the café will reopen, but it seems all parties—faculty leaders, student leaders, and dining hall staff—are in support of a compromise.

     Cyril Leahy said, “There’s just so many benefits. I would be all for it.” 

Author: Tyler Zimmer '21

Editor-in-Chief Tyler Zimmer '21 has written for each section of The Index since 2018. He previously served as Managing Editor and Arts Editor. In addition to journalism, Tyler plays baseball and golf, and he is often found working in the art studio.