NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending his decision to allow outdoor learning when schools reopen for blended learning next month.

Many, including teachers unions, have said he dragged his feet on the choice, and now they won’t be ready in time.

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As CBS2’s John Dias reported Tuesday, PS 51 in Midtown, Manhattan is now a colossal school, but back in the early 1900s during the tuberculosis pandemic there was enough space to make it an open-air school, even during cold weather months. It’s something the city is now allowing as a choice during the coronavirus pandemic.

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But like many schools, outdoor space is a problem for PS 51.

“We’re in a different world today,” Stanley Berke, whose children attend the school, told Dias.

The new plan allows all schools — public, charter, or religious — to use any outdoor space, like fields or playgrounds, on their property or coordinate with city agencies to use parks or potentially shut down streets.

While some parents are hopeful, others don’t think it will work.

“How long can that work for in our climate? Maybe that’ll work for September, maybe October,” Upper West Side resident Ari Scwebel said.

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Many say wealthier schools or institutions with large outdoor spaces have an advantage, like Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, which already has tents set up.

“The schools uptown have been planning since June,” said Malini Wadhera, of the Upper West Side.

Her daughter’s school will have outdoor learning, but she’s concerned for others, saying with such short notice they won’t be ready.

“How are they going to get tents? How are they going to get electricity fed through? How are they going to get Wi-Fi outside for the kids?” she wondered.

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Principals and teachers say with a little more than two weeks before school starting, they don’t have enough time to plan.

“Play streets are an idea that’s been out there for a long time and used for a long time. So it’s not mysterious to school leaders to think about this option,” the mayor said Tuesday.

“We already have 243 schools that had submitted applications for outdoor learning. So there is a real hunger, and a real enthusiasm for that, and our commitment, again, is to turn these around as soon as possible — which, some of them will be turned around today,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza added.

Principals have to turn in their outdoor learning plans by this Friday.

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