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Outdoor learning plan unveiled for students in New York City

August 24, 2020

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza unveiled their new plan for outdoor learning in New York City Monday.

The mayor said that New York City has the strongest schools reopening plan in the country and improves on plans shown to work across the world.

“The focus has been on health and safety,” he said. “We’ve created a new gold standard. We’ve combined them into one strategy for safety for all.”

The mayor pointed to the city’s 3% infection threshold for reopening and said it’s stricter than the WHO’s 5% reopening threshold.

He also said masks requirements for all grades of students and teachers is as stringent as in Japan and South Korea, free testing for staff surpasses Europe’s plan except Luxembourg, the contact tracing program matches Japan and Germany, and the new option for outdoor learning is similar to Italy, Denmark, and Norway.

The outdoor learning plan will apply to all public, charter, and even private schools in the city.
–Principals can set up classrooms in their schoolyards and request additional space
–Any school that applies by Friday 8/28 will have a response next week.
–The plan prioritizes the 27 hardest-hit neighborhoods and schools with no usable outdoor space.

Schools must provide barriers and staffing to close any street. When submitting a street location, schools are strongly encouraged to select streets with the following criteria:
–Is a quiet, non-commercial street
–Is a one-way street; if two-way, not more than one lane of traffic in each direction
–Is not an MTA bus route or truck route
–Is not used by a police/fire station, parking garage, or hospital

Sister agencies will review the schools requesting space and make sure that the spaces are safe and secure for students and staff, Chancellor Carranza said.

“I’m excited about outdoor learning as a supplement to the school day,” Carranza said. “Before COVID, I always knew how important it was for my scholars to get some time outdoors, and now, in partnership with our sister agencies, that will be possible for more schools – even if that school doesn’t have a yard.”

Reaction was mixed.

“The mayor’s reopening plan continues to fall short, particularly in terms of necessary testing,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew said.

The city’s current reopening plan calls for a mix of in-person and remote learning, with students taking turns in classrooms when they return in the fall. But more than a quarter of students have decided to go with the all-remote option instead.

“Any teacher, any staff member – whatever they need, they’ll get with PPEs, there’ll be plenty available for each school,” de Blasio said last week. “We want kids to come to school already wearing a face covering. We want kids wearing a face covering wherever they go. In school, out of school – any kid who needs one will get one.”

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