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DC State Board of Education asks mayor for $4 million to create outdoor classrooms

FILE- An empty classroom is seen at Hollywood High School on August 13, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
FILE- An empty classroom is seen at Hollywood High School on August 13, 2020 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images)
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The DC State Board of Education recently sent Mayor Bowser a letter asking her to make at least $4 million available to DC Public Schools and DC public charter schools, so they can offer outdoor learning options to students returning for in-person learning during the remainder of the 2020-2021 school year.

That is a similar amount that was offered to restaurants to help them winterize outdoor seating areas, so the Board of Education wants to see the same happen for schools. The idea is to allow schools to have the option to create “safe, well-equipped, and weather-appropriate outdoor learning spaces and to engage with partner organizations should they choose to do so.”

Earlier this month, Chancellor Lewis Ferebee told 7 On Your Side that the goal is to return to in-person learning by February. Some families and educators are expressing concerns after several CARE classrooms reported COVID cases in D.C.

“We know that we need to reopen, everybody wants students back in-person, but we can’t do that until families feel safe and educators feel safe,” Emily Gasoi, the Ward 1 Representative for DC State Board of Education, said.

“We have had interest, but we know that school leaders are overwhelmed and unless there is clear explicit support for this in the form of funding, and funding where they [educators] have the digression for how to use it for outdoor learning to make that fit their school community, I understand why they are not really able to pursue it,” Gasoi said.

I think if the money were there, they would do it.

The DC State Board of Education said the money could help schools get things to provide outdoor learning options, including:

  • Training to prepare teachers for effective outdoor instruction
  • Warm clothing for students and teachers
  • Tents, heathers, and other infrastructure
  • Weather-resistant furniture, storage, and equipment
  • Assistance from consultants and partnering organizations

“It’s imperative that we find ways to provide safer solutions and more differentiated solutions,” Gasoi said. “We are not saying not to do the CARE classroom or the learning hubs, and maybe providing some in-person learning inside if that is safe, but that is not a viable option for all educators and it’s not a viable option for all families. So, this just expands the opportunities.”

As of Tuesday morning, December 29th, Gasoi said the DC State Board of Education has not heard from the mayor or her office.

“Even if we do round that corner and we feel it’s safe to go back inside, outdoor learning has so many benefits and coming out of this period where students have been sitting in front of screens for too much time and haven’t had the opportunity to socialize with their friends, it just makes sense,” Gasoi said.

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