With the return of more students just around the corner, Rochester’s Lincoln K-8 school is getting ready to help everyone stay a little farther apart out in the open air.

The district-wide school in southeast Rochester raised thousands of dollars to purchase 12 picnic tables, allowing students to have lunch while also staying socially distanced outside rather than trying to do so with everyone indoors.

“With the current situation with COVID, it’s just one more chance to give them fresh air and a different approach,” Lincoln Principal Jim Sonju said.

The idea began last fall when the school borrowed a number of tables from the city's Parks and Recreation Department. Even though the school was in a hybrid-learning model and only had half its students on any given day, it was a way to help keep students outside and spaced appropriately.

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Adminstrators liked the setup enough that they decided to see if they could raise the funds to purchase a dozen tables. Less than a month after asking for donations, the tables arrived on Friday.

The school was able to raise its table money quickly. Within just a few days of making its plea public, the school had about $3,000 and received an offer from Scheels to match donations. The cost of the tables was $7,800 -- $3,900 each for the school and Scheels.

Elementary students returned to full in-person learning at the beginning of March. Secondary students are scheduled to return on Monday, April 5. With Lincoln's full K-8 student body scheduled to be in the school for the first time since last year, Sanju said the tables were especially wanted.

The tables are a way to help students space out during lunch rather than all huddling in the school's lunchroom. But Sonju said there's plenty of other uses for the tables and outside learning.

“We found that it was so wonderful that we wanted to make it a long-term option for our students,” he said. “It just opens up more outside opportunities for our students.”