Explore Safe DC School Re-Opening with Outdoor Learning This Fall!

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COVID-19 changed the calculus for safe, socially distant classrooms. ReOpen DC recognized the problem: you can either increase square footage to accommodate the students, or you can reduce the students.  They chose to educate fewer students, but what if we choose to enlarge the educational space instead?  There is significant evidence that being outdoors significantly reduces the risk of spreading the virus.  Each child can go to school every day by extending classroom square footage utilizing outdoor space. We can minimize COVID-19 exposure risk, maintain adequate social distance, and educate all of our city’s children fully every weekday if we plan well. Teachers believe this should be contingent on safety precautions, equitable access across the city, secure areas, cleaning, weather considerations, sound and health- but that city leaders should explore this idea NOW.  This idea has taken hold in other cities, states and around the world with innovative solutions.  

DC's Mayor chose to close streets to allow for outdoor dining- why not close them for outdoor education?  By closing streets, allowing use of public parks, parking lots and other spaces- we can have an EQUITABLE approach that allows all schools to use outdoor space, improve student mental health, allow adults to go back to work, improve physical health and make sure our educators are safe. Check out how Denmark made it happen. Denmark and many other countries have smartly recognized that the easiest and most effective way to ease back into in-person education is by starting with the youngest grades- those who cannot stay home alone and for whom technology is an even less effective delivery method.

We've all experienced the downsides of virtual learning- including too much screen time for our children.  The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley (https://www.lawrencehallofscience.org/ collected data across multiple cities in California and found that over 60% of children in low-income neighborhoods never turned on their school-issued devices. A WTU teacher survey found this is also the case here in DC>  It's time to focus on another approach.

Check out this amazing 2 page resource that describes the idea.  Please sign on and share.  You can ask the DCPS Chancellor to consider this by emailing Lewis.Ferebee@k12.dc.gov and the Deputy Mayor of Education (who oversees planning for both DCPS and Charter Schools) at paul.kihn@dc.gov.

More resources- https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/05/11/why-kids-shouldnt-be-forced-sit-desks-all-day-when-schools-reopen/