State superintendent: Kirkland school’s outdoor lunch rule ‘not the best choice’

Jan 7, 2022, 5:24 AM | Updated: 9:57 am
outdoor lunch, kirkland...
The exterior of Lakeview Elementary in Kirkland, Washington. (MyNorthwest photo)
(MyNorthwest photo)

Parents of students at Lakeview Elementary have expressed outrage earlier this week, after finding out that the school would be having children eat lunch outside despite frigid temperatures. State Superintendent Chris Reykdal addressed the controversy on KIRO Radio’s Gee & Ursula Show, outlining his position on the situation.

Kirkland mom says making kids eat lunch outside in cold, wet weather is ‘child abuse’

According to reporting from the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH, the outdoor lunch rule was put in place as part of the school’s COVID policies, given that transmission rates are significantly higher indoors and masks can’t be worn while actively eating. As such, Lakeview Principal Heather Frazier informed parents that students would be required eat outdoors, provided temperatures remained above 38 degrees.

That’s a decision that Reykdal called into question.

“When it gets cold and below freezing, that’s probably not the best choice,” he noted, also pointing out that the state’s guidance revolves around “increased distance for mealtimes,” with leeway for schools to interpret that how they see fit.

To his knowledge, other school districts have not implemented similar policies that mandate outdoor lunch despite colder temperatures.

“I would not have kids outside in freezing cold to deliver meals if I had another alternative, and I suspect 294 districts didn’t do that,” he said. “And obviously, that’s why parents get to elevate their concerns.”

Still a chance of school closures, but decision will fall to districts

Several parents have voiced their complaints, with one calling the policy “abusive.”

Lakeview Elementary initially set the 38-degree benchmark based on the average temperature of Kirkland during December, January, and February, urging parents to “dress their children warmly for school, as students will continue to eat in this outdoor covered space.”

According to Reykdal, it will be up to the local school district if the policy is to change moving forward.

“I’ll never second guess that local decision,” he said. “There are probably reasons why they didn’t do it the way that I would have, but they have clear guidance on how to do this in multiple ways, besides keeping kids outdoors in the cold.”

Listen to the Gee and Ursula Show weekday mornings from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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State superintendent: Kirkland school’s outdoor lunch rule ‘not the best choice’