Outdoor Seating: A Needed Commodity at Westwood


Zoejane Ostebo

Students crowd in, pushing pass each other to grab lunch before the lines close. Photo courtesy of Zoejane Ostebo.

In order to help with social distancing, Westwood has expanded seating opportunities for students during lunch. More picnic tables and benches have been added to the front of the school and the amphitheater. In addition, the IB colony has been opened up for students, yet still, the cafeteria experiences crowding.

The lunch rush floods the cafeteria and surrounding hallways for around ten minutes after the bell, making it difficult to find an empty table within the first few minutes. Those lucky enough to get one are crammed into a lunchroom full of maskless students, coming in contact with many more than advised. It’s hard to feel safe in an environment with half of the school piling into it every day.

The IB colony alleviated the cafeteria crowding for a little while. However, when you can only seat fifteen people at a time, it doesn’t do much for the other five hundred students searching for a spot to eat. There are also a few tables and chairs scattered around the D-Wing, but forget it if you’re coming from the portables as you will not find a place to sit. 

Due to the lack of consistent seating, going outside has been the option for many. Students rush out every entrance in the hope of grabbing one of the seven tables available. Seven. It’s no wonder students go off campus for lunch, as they have nowhere else to go in the first place. It beats the curb or one of the heavily traveled sidewalks. Outdoor seating is a vital commodity at Westwood in order to ease the consistent lunch crowding.

The necessity for more tables has never been more prominent, but yet nothing is being done. Only two new picnic tables have been added this year when many more could’ve been. There’s enough space along the front yard of the school to put at least ten tables safely distanced from each other. Ten might not seem like a lot, but it’d still be helpful for the student body to have them. It’d provide options for students who don’t feel safe eating inside or would simply prefer some fresh air. Students would have the chance to spend some time outside in the sun, getting a break before returning to their studies.

At this point, we’re going to have to be dealing with COVID-19 for a while longer, and crowded environments like the cafeteria can’t be our primary option. Austin’s still in stage four of the pandemic, and flu season isn’t going to help. With these outdoor seating opportunities, many students would be able to eat comfortably without the worry of over-exposure. Lunch is when most students come in contact with each other for prolonged periods of time, and it’s necessary to have it be safer.