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Update regarding In-Person Meals

Update to In-Person Meals 

February 1, 2021


Orange County Schools understands the frustrations stemming from the new plan for meals at school to be consumed first and by default, outdoors as opposed to indoors as originally planned. 

As stated in the meal update from Dr. Felder, which was posted online Friday, please bear in mind that per the health and science experts, eating outdoors, weather permitting, is the safest option for meals in school settings at this time. Districts across the state and country are using this model; several in the Midwest even use 15 degrees or 20 to 32 degrees as cutoff points to go indoors to eat. 

Safety, especially in this evolving COVID-19 environment, is our top priority and guides every decision we make. The ABC Science Collaborative, which includes a Ph.D. trained epidemiologist, is aware of data that is currently being readied for publication.  These data indicate that mask breaks around eating are an especially high-risk time for transmission.  As a result and with the new variants of the virus that have emerged, it remains their strong recommendation to eat outside to the extent possible to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.  The Orange County Health Department also supports our decision to eat outside weather permitting.

One key thing to remember is that students will be eating within a 15-minute window. (This, too, is a strategy successfully being implemented in school districts across the state and country.)  Prior to this 15-minute window, students will be given time to prepare their food for consumption (i.e., peeling bananas, opening milk cartons, removing crust from bread, etc.). Meal preparation will be done while all students are still masked and can be done indoors.  After consuming their meal in the 15-minute window, students will put their face masks back on, discard their trash, and, time permitting, engage with their peers while socially distanced.  Socializing while masked and at safe distances can occur indoors or outdoors.  Of the entire meal process, the only part that must occur outdoors (weather permitting) is the removal of masks for meal consumption in the 15-minute window. 

As a review, the 15 minutes is for consuming meals unmasked:

  • While masked, students will prepare their meal (i.e., remove crust from bread, peel banana, etc.).
  • Once all students have completed all meal prepping, they will be instructed to remove their masks to eat without any talking.
  • After the 15 minutes, students will be instructed to put their masks back on, discard their trash, and enjoy the social part of meal time with their peers as appropriate and while maintaining their social distance.

As stated, while not ideal, at this time in the shifting COVID-19 environment eating outdoors, (weather permitting), is the safest place for our students to unmask to consume their meals. OCS will provide winter wear for students who are in need. And we are working to secure other equipment and items (i.e., tables, seating, mats, etc.) that will make this experience more comfortable. Please reach out to your school’s social worker if your child is in need of any winter wear. 

Thank you for your understanding and support in keeping your children as safe as possible at school.  Should you still have concerns, please know you do have the option to keep your child home and attend school virtually.  Please contact your principal if you would like to change your child’s Plan B option for attendance.