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Davis students asked to eat lunch outdoors in rain due to COVID-19 protocols

The Davis Joint Unified School District says this protocol is to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.

DAVIS, Calif. — Some parents in Davis are upset after their child's school district announced students will be eating lunch outside in the rain.

The Davis Joint Unified School District says this is done to minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Tucked underneath the shade of trees, the drizzle stopped just in time for lunch on the picnic tables at Pioneer Elementary School on Friday. 

"My kid has his rain gear, he has his rain jacket," Tristan Leong, a parent of two kids in the district, said.

Last Monday, Leong got this email from his child's principal, saying that students are required to eat outside at this time due to COVID-19 restrictions and that they should be bringing rain gear, warm jackets and possibly even a change of clothes too.

"Everyone kinda scratched their heads and said wait a minute, there's no cover for them," Leong said.

It was enough for him to speak out to school board members on this issue Thursday night. 

"It's totally just common sense, it shouldn't be political at all, this is not a right or left issue, this is just let kids eat lunch normally," Leong said.

After three requests for interviews with the Davis Joint Unified School District this week, they didn't want to talk on camera, but they did provide the statement that was sent out to families district-wide:

"In consultation with the Yolo County Public Health Officer, Dr. Sisson, we believe the health risk to students is greater eating indoors unmasked than eating outdoors in inclement weather, under a covered area for a short period of time."

The letter to parents went on to say, "We are adjusting our lunch schedule to allow students to eat outside and under cover when possible, and then move inside, with face coverings, for the remainder of the lunch recess."

"We're not looking to have kids sitting outside in a downpour so any guidance about eating lunch outdoors is really intended to be in a covered area," Dr. Aimee Sisson, the Yolo County Public Health Officer said.

Sisson said that eating indoors unmasked and, for this age group, unvaccinated, puts students in a high-risk environment.  

"If it's raining but there's an overhang, for example, where students could eat outside and stay dry but maybe need to be wearing a jacket, I think that that is reasonable and very low risk compared to the risk of Covid transmission indoors," Sisson said.

But parents like Leong still believe it's a overkill, with no surrounding school districts adopting similar outdoor policies. 

"You kind of question if taking the mask off is the end of the world and just for 15 minutes, and just to eat lunch, let them eat lunch and then go outside and play and have some sort of normalcy," Leong said.

ABC10 followed up with the district to see what the policy was for schools like Pioneer Elementary School, which doesn't have a covered outdoor picnic area.

"If it is too rainy, cold or windy, we will adjust lunch and recess schedules and bring smaller groups of students into the multi-purpose rooms to eat lunch in a socially distanced manner before they return to class," Kristin Conner, a spokesperson for the Davis Joint Unified School District, said for schools that don't have an outdoor covered area.

Watch more ABC10: Heavy rain expected for incoming Northern California storms