So, this is what social distancing in a school cafeteria looks like!
With the government pushing for schools to reopen ASAP, one question has taken over every parent’s brain: How? That one question covers a multitude of curiosities, naturally. How will this work? How will teachers get students to wear their masks? How on earth will schools handle social distancing in cafeterias? And while we’re unfortunately set to play a torturous round of “wait-and-see,” we are at least getting a glimpse of how lunchtime will go down in the era of coronavirus.
On Monday, Rombout Middle School in Beacon, New York, shared a photo to Instagram of how they’ll be adhering to coronavirus safety guidelines in the cafeteria. “This is one example of the measures we are taking to promote social distancing at school in the fall. Lunch will look very different this year in the RMS cafeteria but the safety of our students and staff is the top priority,” the school wrote, noting, “Aside from the seating arrangements and some new protocols, a student’s lunch period will be normal and we will still have recess!”
As the photo shows, Rombout Middle School has chosen to replace traditional cafeteria tables with individual desks spaced six feet apart. It looks out-of-the-ordinary, for sure, but it actually makes a lot of sense. If you have to keep kids apart during lunchtime — an inherently social time of the school day — placing them at individual desks honestly seems like your best bet.
In an email to Scary Mommy, Beacon County School District’s Superintendent Dr. Matthew Landahl said, “The school staffs are coming out with layouts that incorporate the DOH [Department of Health] guidelines that require social distancing and reduced numbers of people in spaces. It is one of the many things we are working to figure out this summer.”
Photos posted on social media by other schools around the country reveal that many school districts are keeping the normal cafeteria tables but removing enough tables and chairs to maintain the six-feet-apart rule. It remains largely unclear at this point how schools will handle social distancing when children stand in line to get their food (or if it will be brought to them).
Not surprisingly, there are still many skeptics when it comes to the idea of being able to keep children socially distant — despite schools’ best efforts. “I’m a retired high school teacher,” a woman by the name of Chyrll McDonald tweeted on Aug. 6. “I’ll say what I’ve been saying from the beginning: There is simply no way in HELL to practice social distancing in high school hallways during a 4-minute passing period. Nor in a cafeteria. Nor in a 20 x 20 classroom with 30 students!!”
And unfortunately, early intel seems to support McDonald’s prediction.
Last week, students posted footage of crowded hallways and classrooms at North Paulding High School in Georgia. Very little (if any) social distancing appeared to be taking place. After the photos and video went viral, two teens told Buzzfeed they’d been suspended for sharing the footage on Twitter. The school has since shut down again due to at least nine students and staff members testing positive for COVID-19.
According to a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nearly 100,000 children tested positive for the novel coronavirus in the last two weeks of July. The total cases in children now exceed 338,000.
While children do seem to experience minimal side effects from COVID-19, the rate at which they spread is of a much larger concern. So, here’s hoping socially distant cafeterias do somehow help stem that. FWIW, our socially distant cafeteria vote goes to Rombout Middle’s individual-desk-spacing strategy.
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