How long can Vermont schools hold classes outdoors?

Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 6:33 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 18, 2020 at 7:21 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, Vt. (WCAX) - A number of Vermont schools are taking classes outdoors this fall to limit COVID exposure to students and staff. Olivia Lyons reports on how one Addison County school following the hybrid model is using all parts of its campus to keep kids learning outside while they can.

“It was rough at the start when we were planning for it. We just couldn’t imagine having it all work together,” said Fernanda Canales, the principal at Salisbury Community School.

Once the students arrived at school, Canales says everything seemed to fall into place. Students attend in person two days a week and remotely for the other three, spending most of their day outside. She says planning for their hybrid model has given the school an opportunity to do more outside, hands-on learning. “We really wanted it to be something that was beyond just reacting to COVID. We really wanted it to embrace the types of learning and teaching we want to do,” she said.

The school already had one outdoor classroom. They are now creating two more. Starting with the fifth and sixth graders at the school, students are building and painting their own outdoor desks. But, they aren’t just desks, they transform into a bench.

“Since the whole coronavirus thing is going around, it’s pretty awesome that we can have our own desks and paint and drill them,” said Levi Nuceder, a Salisbury sixth grader.

Friday afternoon, students were adding their own personalization. Canales says this gives students a chance to express themselves and have something special to them during these confusing times.

Julia Morrissey and Isla Weaber are both in sixth grade. Morrissey’s desk is decorated with many symbols including the symbol used to represent female and a sign that reads, “no human is illegal.” “I just did all the things I believe and I like," she said.

Weaber’s desk has “BLM” inscribed on it. “I really think Black lives matter and it’s something I really want to be out there,” she said.

“I think it’s really cool,” Weaber said of the outdoor classrooms.

"It’s going to be really nice to be outdoors more than in school,” added Morrissey.

“Really good, because then I can get fresh air,” said third-grader David Southerland.

The school was also given one tent and used the school budget to buy two more. Friday morning students bundled up for class. Temperatures are mild now, but a Vermont winter is around the corner. “Hopefully we get to jump in snow and make big snowmans," Southerland said.

“I’m very excited to keep it going. It will be interesting as it gets colder and into the winter, but I hope that we can dress properly and be inside and out as much as we can,” said Lili Foster a third-grade teacher.

“We’ll be outside as long as we can be. Our kids are hearty," said Canales, paraphrasing what the P.E. teacher always says, “'There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.’”

She says the school will help make sure families have the right clothing for their students.

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