Elementary schools from California to New York are forcing students to eat outdoors in an effort to protect them from COVID-19, despite plummeting temperatures in the Empire State and rainy weather on the west coast.
And now, parents are lashing out against the school districts that are imposing those social distancing rules.
In New York City, elementary school students were forced to eat their lunches in 39-degree weather on Wednesday.
‘It’s getting a little ridiculous at this point,’ a mom at MS 104 in Manhattan told the New York Post.
‘They’ve eaten outdoors every day this week. It’s cold.’
In Brooklyn, another mom of a student at a Park Slope elementary school said her child began complaining about eating in the ever-dropping temperatures, having done so since the beginning of the school year back in late August.
‘We’ve heard no plans to bring them inside anytime soon,’ she told the Post.
‘In fact, they are still asking for parents to give the school their Fresh Direct bags to create seating pads. It doesn’t sound like they’re going in.’
In New York, the Department of Education has allowed principals to come up with their own lunch plans for this school year.
While not every school in the city is forcing students to eat outdoors, every school’s lunch plan must comply with social distancing rules, meaning more students are taking their meals outside.
Kids in balmier California are also being made to eat outside. And while there’s less chance of freezing weather, those youngsters must contend with soggy lunches as they’ll be forced to eat outside if it rains.
‘My kid has his rain gear, he has his rain jacket,’ said Tristan Leong, a parent of two kids in the Davis, California school district.
‘Everyone kinda scratched their heads and said wait a minute, there’s no cover for them,’ Leong said, according to ABC10.
Elementary schools from California to New York are forcing students to eat outdoors, pictured, in an effort to protect them from COVID-19
Pictured: in New York City, elementary school students were forced to eat their lunches in 39-degree weather on Wednesday
Leong brought the issue up to school board members Thursday night after receiving an email last Monday from his child’s principal, saying that students must eat outside due to COVID-19 restrictions, while adding that they should have rain coats, warm jackets and even a change of clothes too when going to school.
‘It’s totally just common sense, it shouldn’t be political at all, this is not a right or left issue, this is just let kids eat lunch normally,’ Leong said.
The Davis Joint Unified School District refused to comment on the matter on camera, according to ABC10, however the news outlet did receiving a statement that was sent out to families district-wide.
‘In consultation with the Yolo County Public Health Officer, Dr. Sisson, we believe the health risk to students is greater eating indoors unmasked than eating outdoors in inclement weather, under a covered area for a short period of time.’
Pictured: elementary school students eat outdoors in line with social distancing rules
In New York City, parents said their kids have only been allowed to eat indoors during heavy rain this year
Public Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said that eating indoors, unmasked and unvaccinated, considering the age group, puts kids at a high-risk to catch COVID-19
‘We are adjusting our lunch schedule to allow students to eat outside and under cover when possible, and then move inside, with face coverings, for the remainder of the lunch recess,’ the Davis Joint Unified School District statement read.
In defense of schools’ decisions to have students eat outdoors, Dr. Aimee Sisson, the Yolo County Public Health Officer, said that eating indoors while unmasked and unvaccinated, considering the age group, puts students in a high-risk environment to catch COVID-19.
‘We’re not looking to have kids sitting outside in a downpour so any guidance about eating lunch outdoors is really intended to be in a covered area,’ Dr. Sisson told the outlet.
‘If it’s raining but there’s an overhang, for example, where students could eat outside and stay dry but maybe need to be wearing a jacket, I think that that is reasonable and very low risk compared to the risk of Covid transmission indoors,’ she added.
However, parents like Leong are still questioning the necessity of forcing young elementary school-aged students to eat outdoors.
‘You kind of question if taking the mask off is the end of the world and just for 15 minutes, and just to eat lunch, let them eat lunch and then go outside and play and have some sort of normalcy,’ Leong said.
While some of the schools have a covered outdoor eating area, those that do not have a plan in the event of severe weather, according to Kristin Conner of Davis Joint Unified School District
Pictured: a covered outdoor dining area where elementary school students are forced to eat in an effort to protect them from COVID-19 via social distancing regulations
Pictured: an email sent to elementary schools in Davis, California, where the principal states rain is forecasted, ‘presending an added challenge to our lunch routines’
While some of the schools have a covered outdoor eating area, those that do not have a contingency plan in the event of severe weather, according to Kristin Conner, a spokesperson for the Davis Joint Unified School District
‘If it is too rainy, cold or windy, we will adjust lunch and recess schedules and bring smaller groups of students into the multi-purpose rooms to eat lunch in a socially distanced manner before they return to class,’ Conor told ABC10.
Back in New York City, parents similarly said their kids have only been allowed to eat indoors during heavy rain this year.
Meanwhile, the NYC Department of Education maintained on Wednesday that students have the option to eat indoors if they choose, however parents said they have yet to see such accommodations put into practice.
‘We’ve never been told that,’ the Park Slope mom told the Post. ‘And no one else I know has either.’
‘It’s already hard enough for a little kid to eat outside while sitting on concrete with a mask on,’ said the mother of a Brooklyn fourth-grader who ate outside this week.
‘What does the weather have to be to go inside? How low does it have to go?’
On Wednesday, the NYC DOE said it would remind school administrators of its policy to allow parents to have their kids eat inside upon request, according to the Post.
Children across the US aged five and up can now receive Pfizer’s two-dose COVID vaccine.
But many parents who have themselves received their vaccine are reluctant to get the same shot for their kids.
CDC data shows that just 731 children aged up to 18 have died of COVID between the crisis starting last spring, and November 24.
COVID generally triggers far milder symptoms in young sufferers – with many showing no symptoms at all.
Meanwhile, COVID vaccines, while generally very safe, pose a small risk of potentially fatal heart inflammation, particularly among young boys.