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New York City Schools Encouraged To Let Students Learn Outdoors This Fall, Mayor Says

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday city schools are encouraged to let students learn outside as much as possible when they return for in-person classes next month.

"This will apply to our public schools, our charter schools, private religious schools, learning bridge schools -- you name it. One standard for all," the mayor said during his daily press conference. "It's great to be outdoors, in general, but we also know that the disease doesn't spread the same outdoors."

WATCH: Mayor Bill De Blasio Discusses Outdoor Learning 

The Department of Education will work with schools that don't have their own space to close streets or use local parks, specifically focusing on 27 neighborhoods that were hit the hardest by COVID-19.

"I am excited about outdoor learning as a supplement to the school day," Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said. "Before COVID, as a teacher and a school leader, I always knew how important it was for my scholars to get some time outdoors. Now, in partnership with our sister agencies, that will be possible for more schools, even if a school doesn't have a yard."

De Blasio said principals will ultimately decide how best to use their space.

WEB EXTRA: Outdoor Learning Survey & More Information

The mayor and the schools chancellor once again stood by the safety of their reopening plan.

De Blasio said the city has adopted some of the best standards in the world and continues to have a low transmission rate.

"There's no place that's combining these elements as strongly as we are. That's why we believe we have one of the best standards in the entire world to make sure everyone is safe," he said.

SEE MORE: Schools: The New Normal

He said the 3% reopening threshold is tougher than the World Health Organization and New York State's recommendations of 5%, the mask requirement is on par with Japan and South Korea, the free testing for students and staff is more than most nations in Europe, the contact tracing program matches Japan and Germany, and the outdoor learning model has been successful in Italy, Denmark and Norway.

Students are expected to start "blended learning," with some in-person classes and some remote learning beginning Sept. 10.


As CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reported, the United Federation of Teachers is still not convinced the city can pull it off, saying in a statement, "The mayor's reopening plan continues to fall short."

The principals union, which had long been advocating for outdoor learning, said the plan comes too late and it has concerns about disparity and security, adding, "Though the idea of outdoor learning has real merit, the city's plan will not be implemented nearly as well as it could have been if the mayor had simply given principals the time and support they need."

Families are hoping the schools can make it happen.

"I feel like that's better also because we can get some fresh air, not just being stuck inside the classroom," student Michael Hunter said.

"I feel better outside than inside, for sure, because that's where, scientifically, they were saying the virus is mostly spread from indoors as opposed to outdoors," parent Billy Hunter added.

"I think as much outside instruction as possible would be the best thing possible," parent Nicole Nelson said.

"If it's manageable? I think it can only help," parent Eric Nelson added.

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