Updated: November 22, 2021 12:19 PM
Created: November 18, 2021 06:10 PM
Pictures of Normandale Elementary School in Edina show students eating their lunch outside with hats, coats and mittens on.
"Since the beginning of school, I learned that essentially if you brought a lunch from home, you were eating outside," said Carissa Palm, the mother of a third-grader at the school.
Palm's daughter frequently brings home lunch, although Palm says she won't be anymore after realizing her daughter was still eating outdoors in November.
"I felt silly for not realizing that she was sitting outside when it was 36 degrees," Palm stated.
Edina Public Schools says outdoor lunch is an element of its COVID-19 mitigation strategy and says it is optional.
But 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS found it is not optional at all schools.
At Normandale, if you bring cold lunch — like Palm's daughter — you eat outdoors.
"It was surprising that they didn't have any type of temperature guidelines for what might be too cold and that [the principal] wasn't open to putting anything in writing so that we could make plans and go forward based on our family," Palm explained after reaching out to the district about concerns.
Outdoor lunch has also not been optional at Highlands Elementary in Edina, where Dan Stocker's second- and fifth-graders have been eating hot and cold lunch outside all year until last week.
"My kids did have days where they were asking for fingerless mittens or mittens where the fingers can be accessed, so it was concerning as a parent," he explained.
Stocker and Palm both said they understand those who want their children to eat outside and said they should have that option, but both think there should have been an indoor option as well, especially as temperatures dip.
"We're all trying to keep our kids healthy, but when you take a step back and look at the larger picture, we are forcing our kids, who are in elementary school, to go outside and eat their lunch in 40, 30, or 20-degree temperatures, that doesn't make any sense," Stocker said.
The district didn't have anyone available to answer questions on camera but responded via email:
"Edina's six elementary schools have had outdoor spaces as an optional lunch location since the start of school.
At this time, most of the elementary schools have moved to indoor lunch... two schools have continued to offer outdoor lunch as an option."
The district did not respond when asked about a policy or guidelines for outdoor lunch regarding temperatures, wind chill, rain, or snow.
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