Can Outdoor Lunch Continue?
Jack Thomas '23
On October 23rd, St. Albans successfully implemented the hybrid learning model to capitalize on the slightly lifted coronavirus restrictions in the District. All students who have been able to return are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to see each other and learn in-person. However, this transition has not come without a cost. St. Albans has to follow the many public safety protocols, including wearing masks, social distancing, and eating lunch outside. Yet, the student body and the faculty have made the transition incredibly smooth and a great success, despite the unprecedented circumstances of this year.
However, while hybrid learning started in the fall, increasingly cold weather in the coming weeks will make eating lunch outside more difficult for everyone, from the students to the Sodexo staff who spend hours outside each day. This puts the school in a precarious situation, as eating indoors would violate CDC guidelines and risk the possibility of a student or faculty member becoming sick. As a result, hybrid learning is entirely contingent on good weather, which will become increasingly scarce as we move into late November and early December. Temperatures this coming week will fall as low as fifty degrees according to the Weather Channel. This makes outdoor lunch tough to do, especially given that students who are not properly prepared for the cold weather could risk getting a cold, which would force them to remain completely virtual at least until their symptoms are gone. While it would be nice to go inside, the school has to reckon with the fact that we will be eating outside at least through the winter.
So how does St. Albans adjust for the cold weather? The school has a number of options from which to choose. First of all, St. Albans could send alerts to parents and students through MySTA to notify them on days where students need to bring in coats. These announcements could work similar to snow days and would hopefully increase the number of students who are prepared for the cold weather. Additionally, the school could consider making long sleeves/sweaters and pants mandatory for students during the winter months. Some students would object to this use of administrative authority, as wearing shorts for the entire year is seen as a kind of challenge for students. However, this year is far from normal and when students have to spend thirty-five minutes outside in cold weather, wearing long pants and sleeves becomes more important than it seems. Lastly, the school could invest in heaters to warm the outdoor tents and keep students warm. This solution, while it requires an investment, provides the most benefits, making it so that students don’t freeze and lunches can still be outdoors, even in the snow.
If the school decides to not purchase heaters, it is safe to assume that there will be days where it will be too cold for outdoor lunches. This does not mean that students will have to starve. The school can offer to do lunch inside, although the CDC places eating inside in the “Even More Risk” category (the third out of four categories for safely eating at restaurants or public venues). If St. Albans was to do this, they would have to separate students into classrooms where desks can be placed socially distanced. The CDC also recommends “prevention practices (such as handwashing and staying home when sick) and environmental cleaning and disinfection” to help keep eating venues safe. St. Albans could organize the times before and after lunch when hand washing and sanitizing could be done to ensure that all students and faculty are taking all of the necessary precautions. It is worth noting that the CDC recommends that all eating should be done outside and socially distanced. This solution assumes that is not possible and that St. Albans would continue hybrid under those conditions.
We’ve lived in uncertainty for the past nine months, and we are sure to live in uncertainty for months to come. Yet, we always are able to unite and come together, whether that is virtual or under a tent. We may not know how the temperature will impact lunch this winter, but we can do one thing: hope that the cold weather stays away.
CDC Page: Guidelines for Restaurants
The Weather Channel