Austin ISD will invest $1 million in outdoor learning spaces to stop the spread of coronavirus

Education

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Austin Independent School District will invest more than $1 million from its federal coronavirus relief funds toward building outdoor spaces at all of its campus.

The district says there are benefits for students who engage in an outdoor setting and campuses which can curb the spread of the coronavirus by ensuring as much time is spent outdoors as possible.

For example, at Maplewood Elementary in east Austin, teachers utilize open areas every day. As of Friday, there were no positive cases or exposures at the school. In comparison, Oak Hill Elementary, which currently has AISD’s highest elementary case count, is currently dealing with six positive cases and 34 exposures.

“I think it really is because we are practicing our masks, social distancing and making good use of our outdoor spaces,” said Maplewood principal Vicki Jacobson. “If we have space, our teachers will come out and use it.”

Even still, campuses across the district need help establishing more opportunities for outdoor learning and eating. The district says a principal survey was completed last week to better learn the needs of each campus. However, a material shortage from the pandemic is leading to long wait times for goods to be delivered.

Because of this, the district’s service center has begun handcrafting tables to be delivered to campuses for outdoor learning.

Campbell, Dawson and Govalle Elementary received the first batch of outdoor tables, but the service center will be increasing production to 50 tables per week to send to campuses with students under 12 who are located within COVID hot zones.

The Austin Ed Fund, AISD’s nonprofit foundation, is also utilizing its crisis support fund to supplement the district’s million dollar investment.

The crisis relief fund was established at the beginning of the pandemic and has gathered more than $10 million. A portion of that fund will go toward outdoor tables, white boards, shaded canopies and other materials. The foundation’s executive director said the community can contribute to the fund if they are looking for ways to help.

“When [parents] want to help and they ask how can I support Austin ISD, this is a great way to do that,” Michelle Wallis, the Austin Ed Fund Executive Director said. “Students learn everywhere and the classroom isn’t just contained within the four walls you see in this building.”

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