NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Just weeks before the start of the new school year, city leaders on Monday announced a new outdoor learning initiative -- an idea that's worked well for summer camps.
It's not exactly a classroom, but a field is where hundreds of kids between the ages of 4 and 13 got together during the last eight weeks at Asphalt Green Summer Camp, and what was learned there will translate to schools.
"A lot of our managers this summer are classroom teachers who feel more prepared because it's not this scary concept as much anymore. It's something they have seen in practice," camp director Katie Duffy told CBS2's Kevin Rincon.
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Duffy attributes their success to transparency.
"Being really clear in your communications with your parents and your students about what to expect," Duffy said. "It wasn't as bad as we thought maybe it could be. To actually live it was different than just imagining it."
There was space that was used for classrooms, with each individual seat spot marked for the students.
The changes included portable sinks, hand sanitizer stations, and plenty of reminders to stay socially distanced. The end result? Some, but not all of the familiar markings of a summer camp with not a single COVID-19 confirmed case among kids, or staff.
Outdoor learning is something educators have long advocated for, and it's something only now the city is willing to allow.
"Starting today we empower our principals to determine the maximum amount they can do outdoors," Mayor Bill de Blasio said.
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Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said what they've done now is streamline the process.
"It's not like no one has thought about this and, surprise, now you can have outdoor learning. Principals have been asking for this," Carranza said.
But the teachers union isn't happy.
"The mayor's reopening plan continues to fall short," the United Federation of Teachers said in a statement.
The principals union says it's a good idea, but the plan comes too late and with concerns about disparity and security.
As for parents, they really want the initiative to work.
"I think it can only help. It can only reassure parents, reassure safety," one said.
"I feel better outside than inside, for sure," another said.
The mayor said if schools don't have outdoor space, they will consider using streets and even nearby parks.
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