WUSD to take in-person classes outside

Jermaine Johnson II

Woodlake Unified plans to install outdoor shade structures and seating at various school sites to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 

WOODLAKE – Outdoor seating at restaurants has become the new normal over the last few months, as Tulare County works diligently to stop the spread of COVID-19. In an effort to get students back to in-person schooling, the Woodlake Unified School District (WUSD) has taken a similar approach and approved a plan to install outdoor shade structures and seating at various school sites.

According to the district, the purpose of the structures is to create outdoor learning spaces that will better support in-person instruction for certain classes and also help maintain social distancing during meal service.

“We’re learning that eating outdoors is something that will help us bring our students back. We’re anticipating the need for outdoor shade structures and furniture for kids to sit down and enjoy their lunch,” superintendent Laura Gonzalez said.

The plan is to install two structures at Francis J. White Learning Center, two at Castle Rock Elementary School, one at Woodlake Valley Middle School, and one smaller one at the Woodlake Educational Options Program site. Woodlake Union High School won’t be getting a new structure since they already have a large outdoor area.

“When this is all said and done when we can all return, we can use these [structures] to have a variety of different functions outside,” Gonzalez said.

Once students have fully returned to in-person schooling, these structures can still be used for eating outside when the weather permits. They’ll also be good for physical education classes, band/choir concerts, or a Friday fun-day for students to get them out of the classroom.

To pay for the shade structures and seating, WUSD is planning to use Learning Loss Mitigation funding. The California Department of Education provided these funds to school districts to help support academic achievement and lessen learning loss due to COVID-19 school closures. Being able to bring back small cohorts of students to meet outside will help WUSD mitigate learning loss.

Following the district’s motion to approve this plan, they now have to get it approved by the state. Once it is deemed that WUSD has met the appropriate requirements as far as installing these structures, then they will be able to move forward with the construction.

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