Detroit school prepares for in-person learning by adding 5,000 square feet in outdoor classrooms

Detroit Waldorf School working to create safe in-person learning

DETROIT – While many Michigan schools have decided learning will have to be done remotely this fall, the Detroit Waldorf School is working to create a safe in-person learning environment for students.

Ignacio Moreno Elst has been helping since the stay-at-home order was lifted.

“This week, I’ve been coming every day, and usually around almost up to six hours a day,” Elst said.

This isn’t his full time job. He’s a father who’s trying to give his children the chance to learn in-person this fall.

“The Waldorf curriculum is very much in-person,” Elst said. “We do a lot of things by hand, and at their age, it’s very essential to be here in school.”

Detroit Waldorf School is an independent kindergarten through eighth grade school in Indian Village. School officials came up with a plan to expand learning spaces by 5,000 square feet with outdoor classrooms.

“So they’ll have one solid wall, which we’re calling the teaching wall,” Elst said. “There will be cubbies for the children’s things and then the other three sides will have canvas flaps that come down to increase four-season use.”

The school has raised more than $43,000 from crowdfunding in a month for the materials. The labor is time donated by the parents

“We felt five days a week -- in-person instruction was really important to us to at least attempt it,” Elst said. “We felt like it can be done safely, and these outdoor classrooms are just one part of that plan.”

School officials and parents realize everything could change in an instant, but the outdoor classrooms are there to stay, even after the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“Just to know in the future our kids are going to look back and say, ‘My father was able to do this for us’ is a huge honor,” Elst said.

School starts in less than three weeks, so everyone will be working around the clock to get the outdoor classrooms done in time.

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