Three To a Table

Ava O'Connor

Due to COVID-19, students have been told that they can only sit in a particular position in relation to their friends at the lunch tables. Teachers enforce the three-to-a-table rule by moving any extra people from the table, and repositioning the students so that they are left in a specific pattern. Though students aren’t resisting this new schoolwide rule, they wonder why this is a new procedure and how it’s keeping them safe. 

Freshmen Rebecca O’Brien and Jenna Norah spoke about their experience with this newly implemented rule. The announcement of this rule forced students who have been self-isolated for months to be separated from their friends even during their lunch period, which is meant to be social. Norah stated, “I was sad cause I wanted to sit with more friends at lunch” as she heard about this adapted school procedure.

As a result of COVID-19, the world has been extremely careful in physical distancing. To integrate this rule into a school setting, the three to a table rule was believed to be the most effective. Last year at lunch, “Everyone would try and pile into one table, and half the people would be standing around one table, so everyone was like, touching.” This rule now forces students like O’Brien to “..ask people, like who you want to sit with during advisory so, it’s kind of annoying.” Norah compared “everyone asking, ‘Hey, do you want to sit with me at lunch?’ ‘Hey, who are you sitting with?’” to “..before it was just kinda like everyone go find a table and if you’re there, you get a seat, if you’re not you’re just going to stand.”

From the students’ perspective, it’s safe to say that though they may see this new rule as an inconvenience and a major change in normal school routines, they can understand why this is a newly instated COVID procedure. In the words of O’Brien, “I mean, it was annoying but I understood it.”

  Debra Warner, an upper school math teacher, and the CDS math department chair, spoke on the topic of the three to a table. She separates students on a regular basis by giving them the liberty to separate. “I actually have lunch duty on Monday and Wednesday, and it happens all the time; I never tell them who has to move. I always just say, ‘It’s not three, somebody has to go.’ They would then start talking amongst themselves and decide who was the last one there. Normally, Warner will separate students “10-15 times during the lunch period.” Her words gave insight to the teachers’ perspective and shows the students that the faculty struggles with this change, too. 

The assistant head of upper school, Donna Holyman, responded to a question from the students, ‘It’s not six feet anyway with three people, so why does it matter if it’s four when you can sit diagonally?’ She explained, “..we can control what’s happening in school, so even if you were dating someone and you’re seeing them all the time on the weekends, it doesn’t mean you can walk around hand in hand and kiss here because that’s what we’re in control of. So the same thing, you know, with lunch, the reason for having three is so that you’re not sitting directly across from someone, because lunch is one of our higher risks since you don’t have a mask on.” 

Holyman empathized with the struggle that this new rule might bring, especially with the age group that it’s effecting. She is “just hoping that everyone’s getting to sit with kind of their friends, and who they want to sit with.” The strictness of this rule doesn’t come naturally to her and she describes her feelings when there are “four friends so then the other person is kind of standing there. You feel bad.”

Administration carefully considered the lunch table situation from the students’ perspective and empathized with the students’ need for “flexibility at lunch time because that’s the only time we have to socialize.” Coach Holyman reiterated the administration’s top concern with the lunch tables; keeping a time during the day where students are free to be social.