DCPS reopening Dunbar High School: Dunbar Strong bike program

Alex Clark is a physical education teacher at Dunbar High School, and he created DunbarStrong, as an alternative for students cooped up inside during the pandemic.

WASHINGTON — A teacher at Dunbar High School is trying an innovative method to “keep kids active and off the streets,” and it all starts with collecting bikes.

Alex Clark is a physical education teacher at the Northwest D.C. school and is starting the biking program, dubbed DunbarStrong, as an alternative for students cooped up inside during the pandemic.

The current online curriculum for schools has not been an effective model for every student, Clark said, and with school officials increasing the time for virtual learning, the need for creative options has increased.

“Since the pandemic began in early March, District of Columbia Public Schools moved to virtual learning and it was announced last week that we will continue this model at least until mid-November,” he said. “However, this has not been an effective model for every student and has really caused students to lose hope and interest in their education.”

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Students at DCPS head back to school virtually on Monday, but Clark said his P.E. students will get extra credit for each ride during this in-person course. The program, however, will be open to all interested DCPS students on Monday, Wednesday and Friday evenings. 

“The capacity of the class depends on how many bikes and helmets we have,” Clark said. “For example, right now, we only have 25 bikes ready to go.”

To help, Clark started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to purchase new bikes and some people have donated unwanted bicycles.

In addition to team-building, Clark said he wants his students to learn about their city by bike, the importance of fitness and mental health.

He also wants this to be a safe space for students at a time when deadly violence has increased in the city. 

“Our school lost two students this summer due to gun violence,” Clark said.

“These bikes will provide students with the experience of being around their peers in a socially distant atmosphere where they can be fit, productive, and simply enjoy being in a physical education classroom setting again,” he continued.

Clark is hosting a fitness event for students and their parents in early September. You can RSVP and find more information about DunbarStrong here.

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