COVID Safety: Parents, Teachers Want Outdoor School Lunches to Lower Risk of Virus Spread

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Parents and teachers across many cities in the U.S. are pushing to have school lunches outdoors to ensure a solid COVID safety measure that could lessen the chances of virus transmission among the students.

According to The Washington Post, schools with strict mask mandates, such as Bancroft Elementary in Northwest Washington, allow the children to go without face masks when they have to eat. This leaves parents and teachers anxious about their safety if they have school lunches indoors.

Bancroft Elementary has plans to install outdoor furniture and tents to serve as outdoor lunch areas for the kids. In the meantime, however, the students continue to eat lunch at the indoor cafeteria while observing social distancing. On the other hand, younger kids are designed to have their food at their seats inside the classrooms.

In other public schools across D.C., students now eat at the football field despite receiving federal funding for tables, chairs, and sheds. Some have imposed a staggered lunch schedule and required sign-in for students who want to eat at the cafeteria.

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Schools in this state do not have to follow a uniform COVID safety protocol during meal times. However, parents and teachers believe that every school must have a strict policy about school lunches to make in-person schooling as safe as possible for the children.

Portland Public Schools Mandate Outdoor School Lunches

Portland Public Schools, the largest school district in the state of Oregon, has imposed a strict school lunch policy for 81 campuses effective immediately. Officials have announced that students should eat outdoors in the first six weeks of the new school year while they are developing "meal service safety plans," for instances when bad weather prevents the children from eating outside. In the middle of October, Portland will have frequent rains and drops in temperature, making the outdoors quite uncomfortable.

But while this school district has mandated outdoor school lunches, other school districts in Oregon continue to have the children's meals in the cafeteria with their assigned seats. Beth Grazer of the Hillsboro school district said that the decision to problem-solve had been left to the school officials since they are more aware of their circumstances and can make the "best possible plan" for the COVID safety of their students.

As with D.C. schools, Oregon's Department of Education only provided a general guideline for mealtimes in schools in that the students should be eating in a well-ventilated area.

COVID Schooling Brings No Joy

New York mom Karol Markowicz, whose children will be observing school lunches outdoors, wrote that COVID schooling is robbing the children of some joy. New York schools are not only preparing outdoor seats, but they are also not allowing children to talk during lunch, play during their breaks, or even meet up in person for school club activities.

A Manhattan school also asked parents their feedback on how mealtimes should be imposed in case of bad weather. One of the options given in the survey was for the kids to skip their lunch, which could be detrimental to their health.

Markowicz opined that children are "treated like disease vectors" while the adults are "moving on with lives" and slowly going back to normal. She believes, however, that the restrictions, including the pointless rules for some, will continue since COVID safety is still the priority.

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