New York City to Utilize Public Parks for Schooling

NEW YORK -
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza tour Village Academy in Queens to observe how the school is preparing for a socially-distanced reopening. (Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office)

City schools will be able to hold classes along the streets and in parks, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday. The “outdoor learning” system was inspired by successful school re-opening in Scandinavian countries, and it will “open up a lot of wonderful possibilities” to learn in an open environment.

Studies have shown that outdoor activity is much less risky than indoor activities when it comes to risk of coronavirus, as there is a constant flow of fresh outdoors rather than stale recycled air.

All schools, regardless of whether they are public or private, will be offered the opportunity to have space outdoors available to them. If principals request it, the Department of Education and other city agencies will work with the school to ensure they will have access to the program. If a school does not have school yards, nearby parks and streets will be closed off to the public during the day for teachers and students.

Mayor De Blasio stressed there will be minimal red tape and said his “message to all principals” is: “If you want to do some good creative things with outdoor learning, you’re going to get fast support from agencies.’’

The 27 New York City neighbors hardest hit by coronavirus will be prioritized.

One major caveat, he noted, is that the program will have to be flexible due to the daily possibility of unfriendly weather.

Additional measures to protect students and staff are mandatory masks for everyone, which was inspired by Japan and South Korea, two countries that managed to keep cases minimal.

The city is also offering free coronavirus tests at several locations throughout the city, and teachers and other school staff members are encouraged to get tested before the school year starts.