Heavy rain prompts discussion over lunch protocol

Sofie Zalatimo and Maia Johnsson

A backup of cars on Embarcadero Road on Monday morning follows heavy rain on Sunday. The recent rainstorm raised questions about rainy day lunch procedures for students, as COVID-19 limits the possibility of indoor eating. Art teacher Sue La Fetra said she does not plan to open her classroom to students during lunch this year but hopes the administration will improve covered outdoor seating for students. “I don’t think there are enough [outdoor tables] for everyone to sit down,” La Fetra said. (Photo: Neil Rathi)

With Sunday’s heavy rain and wind marking the beginning of the rainy season, Palo Alto High School faces the challenge of providing dry areas for students during lunch while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.

In previous years, students were permitted to eat lunch in some indoor areas on rainy days, including in the Media Arts Center and the Student Center, but the current indoor masking mandate makes this difficult. According to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson, the administration’s current plan is to primarily keep students in outdoor spaces and possibly in the Peery Center during heavy rain.

“We’re going to open up the gym hallways, then we’ll put tables underneath the awnings near the library and right here [near the Student Center],” Berkson said. 

Berkson said that moving picnic tables underneath awnings around the school has been generally sufficient in previous years. However, according to junior Sara Lamarque, finding a place to eat when it rains can be challenging. 

“I think there should be more open places for us to sit,” Lamarque said. “A lot of teachers close up their classrooms even if it’s pouring rain. Where else are we supposed to go? We don’t have a cafeteria.”

Art Spectrum and AP Art History teacher Sue La Fetra said that while art classrooms were previously a popular location for rainy day lunches, she does not plan to open her classroom for lunch this year in order to prioritize COVID safety.

“Safety is just so important, and there are kids who are getting COVID,” La Fetra said. “I hope that the administration comes up with better options than sitting on the ground, especially if it’s raining.”

Senior Braden Leung echoed the sentiment that students need better options during poor weather.

“I know it’s a struggle to bring people inside, and I know it’s a struggle to clean up big indoor spaces,” Leung said. “But at the same time, it’s hard for students to all be out in the rain.”

Lamarque said that while indoor eating space would be ideal, students could likely manage outdoors. 

“Some people would probably have to sit on the floor, but I think there’s probably enough [covered space],” Lamarque said.

However, Leung said he thinks it would be difficult for students to find enough covered outdoor space when it rains. According to Leung, keeping students outdoors requires creative solutions in order to provide more space.

“It would be kind of tight,” Leung said “I think they [administrators] should do something better. … Maybe they can create spaces where they put tarps between two different roofs and let students sit under there.”

Senior Itzel Acosta said she sees indoor lunches as an option for rainy days this year, as covered outdoor table space is limited. 

“I would feel comfortable [eating indoors],” Acosta said. “I’ve gone to restaurants, and you’re with people and taking off your mask.”