New York school testing open-air classes for youngest students

New York, Sep 2 (efe-epa).- Tents to protect them from the sun and rain, pillows to make them comfortable on the ground, a supply of facemasks and disinfectant, creative teachers and the desire to learn: these are the things a New York school on Wednesday said are needed to provide open-air classes, an idea that both teachers and parents are getting behind.

The PS 15 preschool located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook, tried this model one day after authorities in the city – which has the largest school district in the US and reportedly is the only large urban area that has said it will resume safe in-person classes – delayed the start of the school year until Sept. 21 to better prepare schools and staff to deal with the coronavirus.

“We’re just trying to see what it would be like if we used the outdoors as a part of their education. This isn’t anything new that other schools (haven’t) done. We’ve been doing outdoor learning since like before the pandemic and it’s just a really beautiful, natural and organic way for the children to be able to learn about their community, the world around them,” said one of the teachers who was present, Nikki Laugier.

It is definitely a change, she said, adding however that in education “things change every year” and to know if something works you have to try it. She added that this is a great opportunity to use the sidewalks, the streets, to teach students how to stay safe and maintain social distancing.

Attending this educational demonstration – where the youngest students attended a science class and listened raptly to a story among folding tables – was city Councilman Brad Lander, who in remarks to the media acknowledged the doubts that parents have had amid the uncertainty of allowing their children to go back to school while the pandemic is still raging in various places around the country.

“Obviously #outdoorschools does not solve every problem. But watching these kids engage w/ each other (at social distance), focus despite distraction, listen, sing, imagine was a powerful reminder of ways that public education can safely provide some of what we so urgently need,” wrote the councilman on his Twitter account.

One of the parents who attended the presentation on Wednesday morning, Heath Fradkoff, said that “everyone’s nervous” but he added he was satisfied that the teachers are doing everything they can and that the city is getting ready and taking the proper precautions.

“It’s never gonna be efficient, but nothing with kids is. Our kids are very adaptable and they’ve already experienced months and months of being inside a lot and of not seeing their friends as much, if at all. The kids are resilient. It’s on us, really, the parents, to keep it together and make sure they’re doing what they need to do. It’s gonna be rough, but everyone’s doin’ the best they can,” he said.

On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defended his decision to postpone the start of in-person classes by almost two weeks, saying that remote classes, which will be a part of the curriculum, will be much better than the ones that were available in the spring, when the city became the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the US and the whole educational system had to reinvent itself.

The city’s top education official, Richard Carranza, emphasized that the time gained by the postponement of classes will allow teachers, who return to their classrooms on Sept. 8, to have nine days to spend on professional development, including additional training, becoming familiar with new tools, platforms and curricula to deal with the challenges in this new phase.


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