While it’s not certain, it does appear likely that the school bell will ring across Ontario in September for schools, returning students to classrooms that have been empty since March Break.

The province of Ontario recently released its plans for reopening schools, providing options for parents to either send their children back to classes or continue with online learning.

School boards are being asked to plan for three scenarios for September:

  • Normal school day routine with enhanced public health protocols which would see students returning to class through the week, in classes that reflect standard class-size regulations.
  • Modified school day routine which, based on public health advice, would see an adapted delivery model structured to allow for physical distancing. This approach would have a maximum of 15 students in a typical classroom at a time and a schedule that would limit contact with a single teacher for as much of the school day as possible. Under this model, students would attend school on alternate days or weeks.
  • If at-home learning is continued should school closings be extended, boards should be ready to provide remote education.

It will not be a return to normalcy for students, teachers, and parents, but rather a modified approach reflecting the realities of the COVID-19 crisis. Classroom furniture solutions can help make the return to school a successful experience.

Retrofit Learning Spaces for the Reopening of Schools

Before the pandemic, the school-based environment was designed to facilitate interactive and engaged learning, which included:

  • Classrooms that could be reconfigured to meet evolving needs
  • Common spaces, like libraries and student centers, to facilitate social connections
  • High-density spaces
  • High-mobility environments that encouraged movement and interaction

All of these approaches, while conducive to the success of educational goals, have been identified as susceptible to spreading infection. The new school/classroom experience will probably look more like the below:

  • Smaller classrooms and meetings.
  • Reduced density by spreading classroom furniture, such as chairs and desks, to at least two metres apart. Placing desks in a checkerboard pattern can help effectively make use of the space while adhering to physical distancing protocols.
  • Reconfigured freestanding desks and workstations to eliminate sitting face-to-face without a barrier.
  • Assigned seating throughout the academic period. Consider having students remain in one location while educators move from space to space.
  • Inclusion of panels and screens when physical spacing of two metres can’t be achieved. These screens need to be large enough for the desk and can be easily cleaned between classes.
  • In common spaces, furniture such as couches will be restricted to single use. All classroom furniture (desks, lighting, etc) will need to be cleaned on a regular basis, so sturdiness is an important factor when choosing what classroom furniture to get.
  • Visual cues like directional markers will be implemented to help students navigate the space safely.
  • Masks will become the norm in classroom.

Considerations When Coming Up with Classroom Furniture Solutions

Classroom furniture solutions should be adaptable and easily reconfigured if there are any changes to learning modes, or health guidelines.

Below are some considerations:

  • Select furniture with smooth surfaces or fabrics that can be easily cleaned. It is important that the materials don’t degrade with continuous cleaning.
  • Use furniture that can be easily reconfigured and moved around.
  • Add more mobile power solutions so that students can work from anywhere in the room.

As with workplaces, schools and classrooms are moving into uncharted waters. Adhering to safety protocols and providing classroom furniture that is sturdy, easily cleanable, and designed for learning will help make the new reality a rewarding and successful one. Contact the experts at POI today for more information.