Some of those unhappy with the city's school re-opening plans are urging the education department to think outside the box — and outside the classroom.

What You Need To Know

  • One teacher is urges education dept. to consider elementary school classes outside

  • Councilman suggests high schoolers learn at home, elementary school kids use high school classrooms

  • Another councilman proposes using vacant storefronts for child care while children take part in remote learning

"We’re all in this moment where like our mental health is really suffering and there is really something to be said for the outdoors,” teacher Liat Olenick said.

Olenick and two of her colleagues penned an op-ed calling for the city to consider outdoor learning for elementary school students — in parks, along closed city streets and on rooftops —  all places the virus is less likely to spread than indoors.

Outdoor classes are a hallmark of some pricey progressive private schools and Olenick hopes, with support, it could be an option for students across the city. It's just one idea, she says, and the Department of Education (DOE) should be soliciting others.

"Every single teacher I know has ideas based on their own experience, and I still cannot comprehend that from the moment this started in March there has been one three-question survey, three multiple choice questions, for school staff,” she said.

Current plans call for most students to learn in school and at home on alternating days, leaving parents worried about how they'll find child care or the time to guide children through lessons.

Brooklyn Councilman Mark Treyger, a former teacher, proposes having high schoolers — more adept at online classes — learn from home five days a week. The city could then use high school space to allow elementary school students — many of whom are still learning to read — to attend full-time in person.

"The child development needs of a 5-year-old are far greater than a 17-year-old,” Treyger said. "From a parent's perspective, I don't think you have to hire a babysitter for a 16- or 17-year-old like you probably have to for a 5- or 6-year-old."

Mayor Bill de Blasio has said he's considering child care options for working parents this fall, but has provided no details. Councilman Ben Kallos has an idea.

"Any New Yorker can tell you, if they walk outside their door there’s an empty storefront. Can we turn some of those empty storefronts into distance learning centers and have a place where folks can drop off their kids from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.?” Kallos asked.

The education department says it has been discussing plans in focus groups with principals, teachers, parents and health experts, and will announce child care options in the coming days.



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