Parents concerned about crowding in Collier County school cafeterias

Parents are upset over an image being shared online that shows kids crowded together in a school cafeteria. It’s not confirmed it was taken in Southwest Florida, but it’s raising concerns for kids’ health in schools.

We learned Wednesday dozens of students have tested positive for the COVID-19 in Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties during the first week of school.

Collier County Public Schools is recognizing an issue with lack of social distancing. They said they’ve made every effort to allow for distancing during lunchtime. For example, some middle and high schools have added more tables and outdoor eating areas.

But some parents fear it’s not enough. There was a lot of interaction in a moms group on social media after an image was posted with a caption claiming to show a crowded scene at Barron Collier High School’s cafeteria on Tuesday.

WINK News has not independently verified the photo, but it has fired up parents regardless.

“Well, now, it’s kind of all bets are off, and there’s no social distancing because, at the school, the classes are at max capacity from what I understand,” said Elizabeth Radi.

She said her son experienced a similar scene during his Lely High School lunch period.

“And they’re just shoulder to shoulder,” Radi said. “They’re crammed in there like sardines. It’s like a delta variant petri dish for lunch.”

In social media comments, parents described a similar scene at schools, including Naples High, Gulf Coast High, Barron Collier High, and Pine Ridge Middle School.

CCPS said elementary students are distanced at lunch, but middle and high schoolers get to choose where they eat.

CCPS encourages distancing and sent us photos of lunch at Barron Collier on Wednesday that showed additional seating to allow for it.

“This is the first week of school,” CCPS shared in a statement. “Principals are monitoring and making adjustments as necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our students.”

Victoria Walton has a senior at Lely High. She said parents should have patience.

“I truly think that we’ve all been through enough in the last year and a half, and that we need to give each other some grace,” Walton said. “Whether it’s school administrators or teachers who are obviously in their careers because they want to help their children. They want to help our children.”

CCPS said it returned to a single lunch period for high schools for the 2021-22 school year.

Some parents say that’s part of the problem, but CCPS said it allows students to go to club meetings during lunch, leaving more room in traditional lunch areas.

Reporter:Rachel Cox-Rosen
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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