MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Kids are back at a north Minneapolis grade school this week, but they’re not in the classroom — they’re learning outside.

Harvest Best Academy is a charter K-8 school in north Minneapolis. They reopened for the fall on Monday, Aug. 17 with 70 kindergarteners all taking classes outside and first through eighth-graders doing virtual learning from their homes.

They’ve set up tents in the school yard normally used for recess, where classes are taking place.

“The outside environment, they get the [fresh] air, I’m just excited about it,” said Hortense Hollie, grandmother to Aubrey Peck, who just started kindergarten.

Hollie is thrilled the school came up with a creative option to continue vital development.

“Young people at this age need to learn to interact with their peers,” Hollie said.

Eric Mahmoud is the founder and executive director of Harvest Best Academy.

He knows that outdoor classrooms have their downsides, like wind blowing papers away, the morning and evening set up and take down of all the tents and desks, and the fact that it can only last for another three to five weeks in Minnesota. Mahmoud is prepared to move all the kindergarteners back inside safely with the older students, once it’s too cold.

“We’re going to have Plexiglas around the desks, we’re going to make sure all our HVAC systems have filters, we’re also going to have air cleaners in the classrooms,” Mahmoud said.

For Mahmoud, not reopening was not an option. He says the pandemic is just as threatening as the loss of learning.

“Ninety-nine percent of our children are African American, 90% are poor — we’re already dealing with a significant achievement gap, this is going to exacerbate the achievement gap,” Mahmoud said.

Harvest Best Academy is still in open enrollment. They have 710 students with the goal of 756.

For details about enrollment, click here. 

You can also email the enrollment coordinator Michelle Thomas at mthomas@thebestacademy.org.

Marielle Mohs