Parents of students at Lakeview Elementary School in Kirkland are raising concern over a policy that is leaving their students to eat lunch outside in the cold winter weather.
Jody Isaacson has a first- and a third-grader enrolled at Lakeview. She said she was not aware of the problem until her two daughters started saying they did not want to go to school anymore, which she said was “strange” for them.
When she talked to her kids about why they felt this way, they told her it was because they had to eat lunch outside and follow a rigid set of rules enforced by school staff.
“It was a miserable experience for them,” Isaacson said.
Isaacson said she was aware of the outdoor lunch policy that had been in place since the spring of 2021 to try and increase social distancing measures and reduce the chance of a viral outbreak among students. But she figured the school would bring the children indoors for lunch once the weather grew colder.
Her husband reached out to school administrators regarding the outdoor lunch policy. In response, her family was told by Lakeview’s principal, Heather Frazier, that students would remain eating outdoors as long as temperatures did not drop below 38 degrees Fahrenheit.
Frazier also said via email that families would be notified the Sunday before school whether they would eat inside or outside based on the weather forecasts for the week, signing the email with “stay warm.”
Lake Washington School District spokesperson Shannon Parthemer said the 38-degree threshold was decided on because it is the average temperature of Kirkland during the months of December, January and February. She said if temperatures fall below that mark, the school will work to find other places for students to eat lunch indoors.
“The principal did send a message to families yesterday, to remind families to dress their children warmly for school today, as students will continue to eat in this outdoor covered space,” said Parthemer.
Isaacson said she supports and appreciates what the school is trying to do, but feels they are going about it the wrong way.
“When there are bad policies, we have to speak up,” she said. “That is the situation we are in as parents.”
Amy Martino is a parent to a fifth-grader at Lakeview Elementary and she said she is frustrated because children have been statistically shown to be less vulnerable to COVID-19, yet in this circumstance it feels like they are being the most “punished.”
“We want our kids to have a good time at school,” she said.
When she contacted school administrators to express her concern with the policy, she said she felt the response from the school staff was “dismissive” and their rollout of a survey about the issue to parents, which lacked a space to submit comment, was “condescending.”
She said the school pointed to “staffing issues” as part of the justification for the policy, but she pointed out the hypocrisy of teachers eating lunch in the warmth of their classroom.