Students are back in class this month, but it’s to a totally different experience than when they last attended back in March before schools were shuttered to stem the tide of COVID-19.
Returning students found a learning environment structured to keep them, their families, and teachers safe with density, geometry, and division measures in place, and classroom furniture arranged in a manner designed to give those measures every chance of being successful.
Of course, not all students answered the school bell. Some opted to stick with remote learning, although even that won’t be the same learning experience they had between March to June. The new remote model is now organized as a virtual classroom, with schedules and minimum instruction times to mirror in-class learning.
Have a look at this video from the Simcoe Muskoka Catholic District School Board to get an idea of what the new classroom/school experience is like for students who have returned.
COVID-19 Measures Designed to Keep Students Apart, and Safe
Let’s take a closer look at some of the restrictions students came back to:
- Desks in classrooms have been arranged to keep students at least two metres apart.
- Dividers have been added to certain stations and locations to minimize contact.
- Directional markers, like arrows on the floor, have been installed to mitigate chances of congestion.
- Lockers are off limits for students, also to avoid crowding and mingling.
- Students remain in their class cohort for the full day, including recess and lunch.
- Schedules are being staggered, also to minimize contact. Recesses, lunches, and washroom breaks are also staggered to support remaining in the cohort.
- Boards are using a quadmester timetable to maintain student cohorts.
- Enhanced protocols that are in place include cleaning of surfaces, regular opportunities for hand hygiene, respiratory etiquette, and use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Separate school entrances and exits have been clearly marked.
- Students in Grades 4 to 12 are required to wear masks indoors on school property.
- Like lockers, water fountains are unavailable. Parents are encouraged to send their children to school with refillable water bottles, and refilling stations have been designated at locations around the school.
Classroom Furniture Arranged to Maintain Distancing Measures
The ideal classroom would incorporate the below strategies:
- More owned spaces: eliminate shared desks and shift to assigned spaces
- Re-orient furniture: arrange desks to reduce face-to-face orientation; a checkerboard pattern can create more space around students
- Add space division: increase barriers by adding screens, storage elements, or partitions to reduce exposure
- Height helps: implement the highest screen boundary possible above desks on all sides when a minimum of 2 metres distance cannot be achieved
As you can see, it’s not learning as usual, and the proper use and deployment of classroom furniture is key to maintaining a safe education environment. As in workplaces, division, geometry, and density measures are factors in creating the new classroom/school model.