It is time for CCUSD to consider outdoor learning

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It’s been ten months since CCUSD students stepped inside a classroom. Though the district has provided in-person learning pods for a tiny percentage of at-risk students, the majority have been stuck indoors staring at screens and withering in isolation.

We all know that virtual learning is a band-aid, not a solution. The statistics on learning loss are devastating and the inequity within those statistics is even worse. But the far more pressing is the mental health crisis caused by the isolation. 

According to the CDC, from April to Oct. 2020, “the proportion of mental health–related visits for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.” 

And those are only the numbers for children whose parents sought care. In the past ten months, our own district tragically lost two students to suicide.

So the big question is: how can we help kids survive this mental health crisis without putting them at risk for COVID? The answer: outdoor learning.

Study after study has shown that being outside, when combined with wearing masks and social distancing, is up to 20 times safer than being indoors, in terms of COVID transmission. But despite pleas from both Superintendent Lockhart and the School Board, CCUSD teachers refuse to consider an outdoor learning plan.

I understand the teachers are weary. They have all worked overtime for the past ten months, struggling to adapt to remote-learning while simultaneously juggling families of their own. That said; schools all over the country—including many in chilly Northern climates—that have championed outdoor learning as a safe and effective way to resume in-person learning. Why, in balmy Southern California, have we failed to do the same?

Culver City even has a parent-lead Outdoor Learning Task Force that has spent months doing research and drafting plans which can be implemented as soon as LA County is out of the purple tier. But the teachers’ union isn’t interested; dismissing outdoor learning as inconvenient instead of embracing the many new opportunities it might offer.

With no vaccine in sight for kids under the age of 16, it could take years for schools to get back to “normal.” In the meantime, outdoor learning is as close as it gets.

If you care about our children, please reach out to their teachers, to Superintendent Lockhart, and the CCUSD School Board and let them know you support outdoor learning. Our children’s lives may depend on it.

Respectfully,

Hilary Weisman Graham

Culver City resident/parent

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