California School Backtracks on Making Children Eat Lunch Outside in the Rain

A school in California has backtracked on making children eat their lunch outside in the rain to adhere to COVID restrictions, the next day saying that the area will be covered and that pupils will be moved back inside after lunch.

California has some of the strictest COVID restrictions in schools in the country, being the first state to implement mask and vaccine mandates for staff and students aged 12 and above. Staff that are not vaccinated must undergo regular testing for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidance, which applies in schools across the country, also recommends that students socially distance wherever possible, especially in indoor spaces where the virus is more likely to spread.

On Monday, Gay Bourguignon, the principal at Patwin Elementary School in Yolo County, sent a notice to parents that students would be eating lunch outside and encouraged parents to pack spare clothes for their children.

It read: "Rain is forecasted this week which will present an added challenge to our lunch routines. DJUSD [Davis Joint Unified School District] students are required to eat outside at this time due to COVID restrictions. I am asking you to send your children to school with rain gear and warm jackets."

Patwin's announcement prompted an angry response from parents on social media, as well as activists.

"This exemplifies California's response with kids during the pandemic," Reopen California Schools founder Jonathan Zachreson told Fox News. "The inhumane treatment of children continues from masking all day, even outdoors, to having to sit on hot cement and now eating lunch in the rain."

"Cruelty to children has been normalized in California," Republican California state legislator Kevin Kiley tweeted.

Realising the rain could pose a problem, the next day, the district sent a letter clarifying that students will be covered while eating outside, and then moved back indoors for the remainder of the lunch break, to accommodating both COVID-19 and adverse weather.

Newsweek has contacted Bourguignon for comment.

Nick Mori, a program planner with Sacramento County Public Health, told FOX40 that working out how to keep children safe in schools was "a balancing act and we understand schools have to weigh all of that and figure out how to operate."

Mori said that schools must be prepared to keep pupils safe, especially during sociable times like lunch.

"If it's possible to have kids eat outdoors, that's great," Mori told FOX40. "If we're in the middle of torrential downpour or lightning storm, we don't want to send all the kids outside with only COVID in mind," he said.

Newsweek has contacted some other school districts in California about their plans to implement COVID guidelines.

On Monday, thousands of children did not go to school in California to protest vaccine mandates that are in place for grades 7 to 12, as well as K-6.

School students in the rain
Schoolchildren race back to their bus after getting caught in heavy rain during a school excursion, as the strongest storm in six years slams Los Angeles, California, on February 17, 2017. A school in California has backtracked on making children eat their lunch outside in the rain to adhere to COVID restrictions. MArk Ralston/Getty