North Bay school district allows elementary students exactly 14 minutes to eat lunch

Why14 minutes? While it seems like an odd number, there is a reason.

Wayne Freedman Image
ByWayne Freedman KGO logo
Thursday, September 9, 2021
North Bay school gives students exactly 14 minutes for lunch
A school in the North Bay explains why they are allowing children only 14 minutes to eat lunch.

WINDSOR, Calif. (KGO) -- In the North Bay, an elementary school is cutting COVID-19 risk, by cutting lunch.

At least, that's the plan from the Windsor School District.

The kids are only allowed 14 minutes to eat.

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"Good job spread yourself out," says Susan Yakich, the principal at Mattie Washburn Elementary School.

As the kids grab lunch, they also prepare for a race against time. It's an adaptation, prompted by a day last month when two coronavirus exposures forced them to close down an entire grade level.

"It just seemed irresponsible to not address that, that is a lot of students out and it is very difficult to learn from home," says Jeremy Decker, Superintendent, Windsor Unified School District.

So, beginning Tuesday, from the time students sit down until they leave, they now get a grand total of 14 minutes in which to remove their masks, and eat.

Why14 minutes? While it seems like an odd number, there is a reason.

RELATED: New masking rules urged for Marin Co. students and teachers, even outdoors

At 15 minutes, stricter state guidelines for quarantine kick in if there were to be a COVID-19 exposure. Essentially, 14 gives them one minute to spare.

"By doing this for 14 minutes, we can accurately say to the Department of Public Health that we know our students have not been unmasked and in close contact for fifteen minutes," Superintendent Decker explained.

By then the district had already determined that lunchtime poses the greatest risk of infection. They still treat it that way.

Every child has an assigned seat as noted by pieces of tape. So they know who sits next to who. Since doing that, alone, quarantine rates have already dropped.

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For many families, returning to school is filled with unanswered questions about safety, risk, and what's ahead with the Delta variant.

Peter Sullivan runs COVID-19 mitigation for the district.

"Well we can go from a full quarantine to a modified quarantine, keeping kids in school," Sullivan said.

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