Outdoor heaters introduced to combat the spread of COVID

Simone Meisnere

With help from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER II), DCPS purchased new heaters and outdoor furniture for Wilson and other schools in the District. 

The ESSER fund provided the money to DCPS towards the beginning of COVID. The funds required that nine million dollars be used for “In-person learning Innovations”. According to the DCPS ESSER overview, “these funds will support schools in developing creative approaches to in-person learning outside of the traditional school classroom, such as outdoor learning furniture, equipment, supplies, and learning partnerships.” For Wilson, this meant new heaters and outdoor furniture.

Interim Principal Gregory Bargeman noted that the heaters were initially going to be located on the art terrace. As they were checking people in for COVID, however, they realized that the heaters didn’t provide as much heat as they were expecting. 

“[DCPS] told us that the heaters could extend for at least 9 feet but we couldn’t get the heaters to heat beyond just standing underneath them,” Bargeman noted. Bargeman added that they are currently working on trying to find a way to fix the issue so students and staff can start using the heaters as soon as possible.  

Propane heaters create more heat and don’t need to be plugged into electrical outlets. However, the District only allowed electrical heaters and not propane- another issue facing Bargeman and others working on setting up the heaters. “We have to put them where there are electrical outlets. There are two [outlets] [in] the art terrace,” Bargeman explained. 

Freshman Frances Leibovich still has some reservations about the effectiveness of the heaters, “If the heaters made it warm enough to eat outside [comfortably] while it was under 45 degrees then I would.” Leibovich added that while she thought that the heaters and outdoor furniture would get more people to eat outside, she didn’t think they would help reduce COVID cases at Wilson by a significant amount.

Baregman also brought up that the heaters could also be used by teachers to move their classes outside for COVID precautions. Sophomore Will Schwendinger commented that he would feel even safer outside. “Depending on how good the heaters are I would [be open] to do that,” Schwendinger said. 

English teacher Lisa Grymes says that she would be open to teaching outside with the new heaters, though she is concerned with maintaining her students’ attention.

“I would be afraid of students leaving or other people from the outside world having access to us” Grymes explained. 

Leibovich adds that while she would feel safer, learning outside might create a more distracting learning environment: “I wouldn’t be very comfortable and I feel like it’s easier to learn somewhere [more comfortable].”•