The pandemic continues to be a challenge for students, parents and teachers in Lake Highlands-area schools and throughout Richardson ISD, but creative minds have been buzzing to find ways to help kids remain connected – and safe – during difficult times. A new plan to install tables and chairs for outdoor dining is earning high marks all around.

Tabitha Branum, RISD deputy superintendent, says a group of concerned parents contacted the district offering to collaborate on the project. Sending kids outdoors for lunch when weather permits will help with indoor crowds – important since most schools are again full of in person learners. Outdoor dining also lessens the risk of COVID transmission while kids are eating and unable to wear masks.

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Al fresco dining also enables kids to appreciate the simple joy of being together outdoors.

“Providing students with additional lunch location options is a great opportunity,” Branum. “Some students prefer to be outside if possible, and it can have a positive impact on a student’s well-being to have another opportunity to do that.”

Some campuses have already installed tables, while others are seeking to purchase them. The parent group, Parents United for Student Safety, is collaborating with the Richardson ISD Foundation to raise funds for outdoor furniture. Many campus principals are also receiving help from their PTAs.

“We are not yet at 100% implementation districtwide, but we continue to work with our campus leadership and parent groups to support this effort,” says Branum. “Our students are loving the outdoor eating option and we believe this effort will continue beyond its use as a pandemic protocol. RISD celebrates our parents and staff for their commitment to the safety of all students.”

If you’d like to help, you may donate directly to the RISD Foundation’s Outdoor Lunch Fundraiser at this link or contribute to your local PTA. Funds will be used to purchase tables, chairs, shade structures (umbrellas or sails) and other items needed for students to eat regularly outdoors on campus.