Rantz: School forces kids to eat outside in frigid, rainy weather, days after snowstorm
We’re only days separated from a brutal winter snowstorm, but one school is forcing students to eat lunch outside. It’s supposed to rain every day this week.
Lakeview Elementary principal Heather Frazier emailed parents this Sunday. She informed them that students would eat outside for the first week of the new year. Parents are livid.
The school is pushing students outside due to COVID. Staff, however, get to eat inside even though they’re more vulnerable to COVID than the children.
Forced to eat outside in frigid, rainy weather
Frazier informed parents that she’ll send weekly emails about the upcoming week’s lunch arrangements. This is so that parents can prepare their children for the inclement weather.
Due to COVID policies, students are forced to eat lunch outside. It better accommodates social distancing guidelines. Outdoor COVID transmission is rare.
But her January 2 email caught some parents off guard. After all, the region just saw significant snow and it’s expected to rain all week. And, of course, it’s also freezing outside. In fact, Frazier acknowledges how cold it is.
On Sundays during January-February I will send a brief message indicating whether students will be eating indoors due to frigid weather in the coming week. This week students will remain eating outdoors as temperatures are expected to be above 38 degrees.
Frazier acknowledges the weather is “frigid” and even ends her email with an ask to “stay warm.” But she’s not letting her students stay warm. She’s throwing them into the frigid weather.
“I feel frustrated to find that the school has had no plan to bring the children inside,” Jody, a mother of two, tells the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH. “They’ve had months to figure this out. I felt gut-punched when I read the principal’s closing statement, ‘stay warm.'”
38 degree is random
Frazier uses 38 degrees as the bar to bring students inside or keep them outside for lunch.
“With frigid temperatures forecast intermittently over the coming weeks, we are moving students indoors for lunch whenever temperatures drop below Kirkland’s ‘normal’ winter low of 38 degrees,” Frazier wrote in a separate email dated January 1.
She offers a “huge thank you to our PTSA for the wind/rain blocking banners that are making our outdoor lunch area much more pleasant!” And she ends her email, “Looking forward to the warmth of rainy days.”
It’s unclear where the 38-degree benchmark came from. An email to the principal was not answered.
Confirmed: 38 degrees is mostly random
Mom Jody forwarded the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH correspondence between her, her husband Mike, and Frazier.
Frazier’s explanation for the 38 degree bar makes little sense.
“The 38 degree threshold was determined after looking at typical temperatures for December-February in Kirkland and a look at temperatures thus far in December 2021. We were successful outdoors through December,” Frazier wrote.
So if the typical temperature was 20 degrees, that would be the bar?
Parents push back
Jody and Mike were upset. They called out the outdoor lunch policy during an email thread with the principal.
But Frazier defended the policy as being in line with “one of the mitigating factors included in the guidelines,” arguing that, “every school has different opportunities and challenges based on their facility.”
“At Lakeview we do not have an indoor space for lunch that keeps students 6’ apart. If students are unmasked for 15 minutes or more in close proximity, that is a close contact. That means quarantine for multiple students. By eating outdoors, unmasked for 15 minutes or less we rarely have a close contact,” Frazier emailed.
But Mike wasn’t buying it.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous that my daughters have been eating outside in temps under 50degrees….and they only get 15 minutes for lunch. I mean…if they only get 15 min for lunch now….and the CDC guideline for close contact is 15…..have them sit in the cafeteria for 14 minutes (they don’t get enough time to eat anyway)…..close contact problem solved!
In summary: there are many ways to solve this problem and I expect the Lakeview leadership to find a long term solution. This is not unique to Lakeview…..communicating with other schools in the district or western wa would easily come up with multiple options for success.
Mike asked them to bring the students inside and have them eat lunch in the classroom. But Frazier said they couldn’t maintain 6 feet social distancing while the student’s masks are off.
“I will continue to look for a long term solution and continue to collaborate with other schools for options that might work for Lakeview,” Frazier said, before inviting the parents to discuss.
This is absurd
COVID doesn’t spread any more or any less if the weather is 38 degree or 24 degrees. If students can safely eat inside when the weather dips below 38, then they can safely eat inside at any temperature.
COVID has the least impact on children than any age demographic. Elementary students, unless they’re suffering from a serious underlying health condition, face little risk due to COVID. And the cloth masks they’re forced to wear inside the classroom do little to nothing to stop omicron.
This idea that wearing cloth masks during history class is safe, but eating lunch without them is unsafe, is absurd.
Frazier is not wholly to blame for the absurd rules. Guidance from the CDC — in consultation with teachers’ unions — makes little sense when you consider the risk COVID poses to kids.
And there’s an underlying threat to the reasonable demands of parents. If they complain too much about the rules, there’s always the threat of keeping kids home from school, even though the educators advocating that position know it’s highly determinantal to the well-being and academics of their students.
But if parents say nothing, their sons and daughters will freeze outside in rainy and snowy weather as they suffer through their lunch break. The rules are abusing these kids. And too few educators and policymakers are speaking up.
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