The pandemic has affected all aspects of our lives including our education system. After months of remote learning, it has become apparent that physical space for learning is important because it allows students to fully interact with each other and participate in extra-curricular activities. When the current situation gets better, schools will eventually reopen. Although, the class and seating layout are still uncertain. Previously, we discussed the ways in which the office design will change when you return to work. Similarly, we anticipate multiple changes in the school layout for any in-person interaction to accommodate social distancing and safety procedures. We expect that everything will look different from classrooms, cafeterias, auditoriums to playgrounds. The important thing to remember is to leverage technology and available space to create a safe environment for learning. Based on our experience in the furniture industry, we have envisioned ways in which the school design will change as compared to the usual.
#1 Change in Routine
It will be difficult to accommodate all students at one time and maintain social distancing. Hence there is a possibility of schools taking a blended learning approach with a combination of online as well as in-person classes instead of calling all the students at once. The in-person class time could be used to facilitate discussion in the classroom as well as to go over complex topics that would be more difficult to cover in virtual classrooms. On the other hand, remote learning sessions could be arranged for one-sided interaction like history lessons. For bigger class sizes, the students could be split into different groups and called in rotations. This will mean less mixing of students since they would not be exposed to the other group making it simpler to follow the safety protocol.
#2 Classroom Design
In this scenario, there is a possibility that functionality and practicality take precedence over appearance and style in the overall design. Incorporating elements, that are robust and can withstand frequent cleaning, into the layout will be a common theme. Closing off access to lockers, designated entrance and exits for each student group as well as portable hand sanitisation stations could be arranged to help both, students and faculty, follow social distancing guidelines. All seating areas in the classroom will be spaced with an appropriate distance between them. You will see more agile furniture like mobile freestanding partitions, bookcases, folding desk and chairs, and so on because it gives maximum flexibility in setting up the area according to your needs. Traditional teachers desks could be replaced by mobile workstations that are height adjustable and also come equipped with ample space for technology and stationery.
#3 Communal Spaces
Spacing students desks 2 metres apart will reduce the capacity of each classroom. Therefore, to adjust bigger class sizes into one room, non-instructional spaces such as cafeterias, auditoriums and gymnasiums could be repurposed as learning spaces. By adding foldable or stackable furniture and mobile drywipe boards bigger empty rooms can be transformed into a safe learning area. Alternatively, outdoor seating areas could be utilised whenever possible. It can be beneficial for students since learning in the fresh air will not only be a good change of pace from the usual but also make them more attentive.
#4 New Signage
Like many other public spaces and offices, it wouldn’t be unusual to see health and safety signs and posters around school campuses. You will notice visual cues reminding students to stay 2 metres apart from each other and floor decals for directing foot traffic as well as for marking entrances and exits. Posters with detailed instructions on hand-washing procedures can be seen in the restrooms to promote proper hand hygiene. Even the staff rooms would have signs of Government-recommended best practices for protective measures.
#5 New Rules
Lastly, there is a possibility of schools establishing new rules and policies to enforce important health and sanitation habits. While certain hygienic practices like wearing masks all the time is not feasible, if not impossible to enforce on students, you will notice other safety protocols such as campuswide handwashing to keep the hands and environment relatively clean. There will also be hand sanitisation stations at entrances/exits and common areas to promote proper hand hygiene. Enhanced cleaning rules could be set in place for all school equipment and surfaces after each use. To bring lasting behavioural change, schools could also adopt training sessions on safety procedures for staff and students.
At the end of the day, the place where we learn matters, hence the students’ needs would be a key theme in the design. Moreover, making decisions based on the latest information is not sufficient as we keep discovering new facts. Therefore, flexibility and functionality will be at the core of all efforts.
If you need assistance in reconfiguring your space, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our skilled team and extensive range of products and services including a full fit-out will make your premises ready for staff and students.