Students won't be forced to sit in the dirt at lunch next year at Capistrano Valley High School once three new $1.4 million lunch pavilions are finished.
There isn't any place for students to eat at the 35-year-old school where rats and mice have been a problem, according to parents and students.
Last week the Capistrano Unified school board approved three new lunch pavilions 6-0, with Trustee Ellen Addonizio absent.
Altogether, the pavilions will accomodate 750 students, said Clark Hampton, deputy superintendent of business services. He said construction of a new performing arts center made this a good time to make the improvements.
Capo PTSA President Barbara Arthur said that rats and mice at the school make eating on the ground unthinkable for students.
"The hygiene level disturbs me," she said. "That is just not acceptable."
Parent Kim Horner has two children attending Capo.
"It’s not many—it’s all of the students who sit on the ground," she said. "They put the food on the ground. You add the rain factor, and it’s really a lit bit disgusting."
Capo student adviser Madison Wolfer confirmed the reports of mice and rats and eating on the floor. She described the lunchtime accommodations as being "quite a mess."
The state requires schools to provide "a warm, healthful place in which children who bring their own lunches to school may eat the lunches."
The new pavilion will be ready by January 2014, Hampton said.
— Patch Editor Penny Arévalo contributed to this report.