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Will NYC schools implement outdoor learning this fall?

Lawmakers and organizations are pushing for it.

Written by
Danielle Valente

Much like children's algebra homework, the return to school this September has been difficult to gauge. 

NYC parents are still waiting to see how the 2020–2021 academic term will unravel, though it's likely to follow a blended learning formula, which combines both in-person and remote learning. Some moms and dads will opt for a completely digital experience this fall. (If this is the route you'd like to go, don't forget to sign up by August 7.) Some local officials are suggesting the year start later than September. Others are asking that schools utilize outdoor spaces when they do welcome back students. 

"This crisis demands that we all work together to use our resources in new ways to meet emerging needs," said Council Member Brand Lander, who serves the 39th Council District in Brooklyn. "New York's streets and parks offer a chance to address deep concerns from parents and school staff, and an opportunity to make schools safer, expand in-person learning for some students and improve the quality of learning for many."

Earlier this month, Council Member Lander wrote to the Department of Transportation requesting that schools in his district—which include PS 146, MS 266/P77K and West Brooklyn Community High School, to name a few—take a similar approach to the city's Open Streets and Open and Streets: Restaurants programs. This approach will enable students to step away from a remote learning environment while social distancing outside. 

"I have heard from many schools in my City Council District that this is an urgent need," Lander wrote. "I’m writing to request your partnership in allowing schools in District 39 to establish new Open Streets on blocks adjacent to their
school to facilitate health, learning and safety in our communities."

Likewise, Green Schoolyards America, a national organization committed to turning asphalt school grounds into green spaces, has started a petition to implement outdoor learning across the country. Over 3,000 NYC parents have signed a similar petition.

Time will tell how it will all unfold: Governor Cuomo is to make announcements about the new academic term during the first week of August. 

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