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A Duval tween asked to eat outside for COVID safety. Her principal said yes but it’s BYO tables – The Florida Times-Union

Aug 14th, 2021

A Jacksonville 12-year-old is raising money for outdoor lunch tables for her middle school so kids can feel safer eating lunch during the coronaviruspandemic.

Lila Hartley made national news last week as she pushed Duval County Public Schools to mandate masks she say would help protect her unvaccinated brother.

Taking it a step further, she asked administrators at Landon College Preparatory and Leadership Development School if she and her classmatescould eat lunch outside to reduce risks when kids are unmasked. Her principal, Katrina Blakely, said she appreciated Lila's idea, but that the school would need outdoor seating to make it happen, which they did not have the funding for.

So the seventh-grader launched a GoFundMe page.

More on Lila Hartley: Local 12-year-old makes national news for standing up to School Board, asks for mask mandate

COVID deaths: Two Duval district employees die the first week of school. Both had COVID-19.

School's back: First day of school in Duval brings excitement, also nerves as COVID-19 cases rise in Jacksonville

"While I am excited to be back to school in person, lunch is a scary time," Lila said."Every day there are over 100 unmasked students, often more than 20 per table, all trying to eat and be kids at the same time. There is no social distancing and no way to spread out."

Lila's mom,Andrea Myers, contacted Blakely to better understand what it would take to outfit the school's courtyard with outdoor seating in emails reviewed by the Times-Union. Blakely said the school would need seven lunch tables and corresponding chairs, which Lila's parents say cost about $850 each, though they are reviewing cost-effective options.

"I am all for Lila's idea for outdoor seating.We don't have the funds to be able to make that possible, so I appreciate you emailing and revisiting with a possible solution," Blakely wrote. "We previously had 5 tables outside. We would need at least this many tables to accommodate 20-25 students. The space next to the cafeteria could possibly hold 7 tables (Which would hold 28-35)."

On Friday, Lila's crowdfunding page went live. The goal is to raise $6,000. If extra money is raised or leftover, Lila said it will go to helping other neighborhood schools pay for tables.

Hours into launching, the page has raised over $1,800.

While proud, Lila's parents say theywonder why their 12-year-old is the one proposing solutions during a pandemic.

"It feels like we're having to step in and do the work we want our schools to already be doing for our kids," Lila's dad, Matt Hartley said."For instance, making lunch safe. It's nuts kids areeating inside without masks with no COVID-19 precautions in place."

In response to Lila's campaign, Duval Schools officials said Landon's PTSA will be coordinating with the Hartley family and Principal Blakely to help move things forward.

"Lilas campaign is a great example of the work that is often done by parent-teacher organizations, foundations, alumni groups, and booster clubs to fund special things that they want for their schools," Spokesman Tracy Pierce said."I know our schools greatly appreciate this kind of local community support. These campaigns are not usually led by 12-year-olds, and thats what makes this one particularly special."

Those interested in donating can visithttps://gofund.me/06cd0862.

Emily Bloch is an education reporter for The Florida Times-Union. Follow her on Twitteror email her.

Excerpt from:
A Duval tween asked to eat outside for COVID safety. Her principal said yes but it's BYO tables - The Florida Times-Union

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