With the recent events that our country (and the rest of the world) were faced with, our educators and district leaders were unexpectedly forced to quickly adapt to a remote learning setting and help their students to complete the 2019-2020 school year without any in-person interaction. Now that the school year has ended and summer has begun, they are having to think quick on their feet again to try to prepare for what the 2020-2021 school year will look like.
Will that mean that the school day is split up into groups of students coming to school some days, while other students learn from home, and then switch on alternate days? Does that mean that everyone will go back to the Preschool setup where they stay in one classroom for the whole day and eat lunch at their desks? Will desks have to stay 6 feet apart and be divided by clear partitions or dividers, while everyone is wearing face masks? What will this year look like? How will educators be able to accommodate every learner in this type of environment? The answer is still unclear and it seems that changes are still happening on a daily basis.
On May 19, 2020, the CDC shared their recommendations for schools and child care facilities to help protect students, teachers, administrators and staff. Among those recommendations, are to reinforce the use of cloth face coverings, support healthy hygiene with frequent hand-washing, limit or discourage sharing of objects, close shared spaces such as cafeterias, gymnasiums and playgrounds, space desks 6 feet apart and have them all frontward facing and install barriers such as sneeze guards and partitions, especially where it is difficult to keep 6 feet of distance between individuals - just to name a few.
These recommendations are definitely not something that we're used to and can almost seem impossible to follow all of these, especially with younger students, and at the same time give your students the quality education they deserve. Over the past several years, our schools have worked so hard to create better learning environments for their students and staff while promoting collaboration among peers. Now it seems like we're taking that away from them and taking steps backward instead of forward.
What does all of this mean for our learning environments? What does it mean for collaboration and project-based learning?
As school leaders and educators begin to plan for this upcoming year and try to envision what their learning spaces will look like, Kay-Twelve has come up with some recommendations to help along the way, while keeping spaces safe and functional.
1. Keep Your Space Flexible
Believe it or not, there will be a time when our schools can go back to some kind of normalcy. Individuals won't have to stay 6 feet apart and students will be able to engage with one another again. One way to prepare for this upcoming school year and future school years, is to keep you space flexible. Allow for your furniture to be mobile and configurable. A perfect example of this is the Haskell Ethos chair. It provides an all-in-one solution for students to have as their own individual space preventing the spread of germs throughout the school day. It also offers the option to be configured into groups to help promote collaboration among students, when it is allowed. It even offers storage with it's wired base for backpacks and other personal belongings.
2. Create a Multi-functional Learning Space
With all of these new guidelines from the CDC, we're seeing a rise of interest in items such as hand-sanitizing stations, portable sinks, room dividers and sneeze guards or safety shields. While all of these are important, it's also important that they serve more than just this temporary purpose.
For example, with the MooreCo Clear Room Dividers, we can put more students back in the classroom by preventing the spread of germs and disease, but also be able to see the whole class through the clear tempered glass. They also are able to be used as a markerboard with their dry-erase surface and they are mobile, which allows for multiple configurations throughout the room, multiple times a day. Spaces could also be divided into individual work on one side and group work on the other.
With the Jonti-Craft Portable Sinks, older schools are able to have access to a hand-washing station without the need for plumbing and these can easily be moved around the school with it's locking casters. Setup your portable sinks outside the door of your classroom to promote hand-washing before entering or keep them in your classroom to promote healthy hygiene throughout the day.
3. Use Easy-to-Clean Surfaces
Now more than ever, it's important to have surfaces in our schools that are easy to clean and don't become a trap for germs, bacteria and disease. When purchasing classroom desks or tables, it's important to either choose a solid plastic surface or a high-pressure laminate surface with a sprayed-on edging. Both of these surface types are smooth, easy to clean with the right products and don't have any crevices that will trap dirt and germs. One of our partners, Scholar Craft, has come out with some great cleaning tips for these types of surfaces and more.
Did you know that it is recommended to use one wipe per surface? Otherwise, you could potentially be spreading germs from one surface to another. Children's Factory, another partner of ours, discusses this and other key points with their own great tips on cleaning other types of surfaces found in a early childhood learning environments.
MiEN Company is another passionate partner with Kay-Twelve and they have recently shared some great ideas for what classrooms can look like when we return this Fall. As you can see in their below renderings, when your furniture is flexible, mobile and collaborative, you can easily create a number of different layouts and configurations, all while following the CDC's guidelines. Furniture like this is the perfect solution for this school year and future school years!
Our team of learning environment specialists can help you plan and design your learning space. We have the experience, the tools and the partners to help you create a flexible, functional and safe space for your students and staff. The best learning happens when students and teachers are able to build strong connections, and the furniture in their classrooms should help them make those connections, not hold them back.
We are ready to help! Our process is 3 simple steps and we can help as much or as little as you want. Start by scheduling your free consultation today!