The New Look of Schools: A Socially-Distanced Learning Environment

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COVID-19, school districts all over the nation are contemplating what changes schools will implement as students return to school this fall. While many schools are debating whether to use virtual schooling, hybrid scheduling, or a traditional schedule, one thing is guaranteed: the 2020-21 school year will look very different from any other school year we’ve ever experienced.

For schools who plan to return to traditional school buildings, there will be drastic changes to the school to make it safer for students and staff. The physical changes will be apparent to all who enter the building and will take some time for students and staff to get adjusted to them.

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What are Schools Required to Do?

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has released guiding principles to help schools open in a manner that will help lessen the spread of COVID-19 throughout local schools and their communities. While these guidelines are optional, many school districts will be taking these guidelines into consideration when trying to create a safer environment for their buildings. Although every state and district will be unique in what they choose to implement, it is likely that all schools will make some noticeable changes in an effort to promote safety.

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What Can We Expect to See in Schools?

First of all, the entire process of getting into the school building might be affected. Some students might be subject to a temperature reading before entering the building. Some will arrive to school wearing masks or riding on a bus in a seat by themselves. No matter how they get to school, once students enter the building, they will see changes right away.

Here are changes many schools will consider implementing based on the CDC guidelines:

Desks will be six feet apart and facing the same direction.

This will be an attempt to ensure social distancing and help the students avoid breathing into each other’s faces.

Students and staff will wear face coverings.

Each school will have to provide guidelines for when students and staff are required to wear face masks. For some, it may be almost the entire school day; for others it might be only when social distancing cannot be accomplished.

Hand sanitizer will be readily available.

Handwashing and hand sanitizing will be a top priority. When students need to sanitize, there will be supplies for them in classrooms and located throughout the school building.

Informative signs about safety will be posted.

There will be constant visual reminders about social distancing, handwashing, and staying home when students are ill. These will be posted throughout the building in hallways, classrooms, and bathrooms.

Storage for individual supplies will be clearly marked.

Students will be minimizing any sharing of school supplies. Each student will need a place to store their own markers, glue, calculators, pencils, etc.

Windows will be open.

Whenever possible, fresh air will help ventilate schools and classrooms.

Students will have their own water bottles.

Instead of students sharing the common water fountains, they will bring their own water bottles to use throughout the day.

Playgrounds will be restricted in use.

Schools will decide to what extent playground equipment will be used. Students will need to practice social distancing during recess times. Any used equipment will be required to be sanitized regularly.

Cafeterias will be restricted in use.

Common spaces are to be used sparingly if at all. Students will be eating in classrooms. Cafeteria food offerings will be limited.

Reception desks will have plexiglass barriers.

Any area that is difficult to provide adequate space for social distancing will require physical barriers such as a plexiglass divider. Spots on the floor will be marked for social distancing.

Hallways and stairwells will be marked for one-way traffic.

To help prevent students from facing each other and exchanging droplets in the hallway, all traffic in the school building should be one-way. There will be markings on the ground and on the walls to indicate the direction that students should be walking.

Hallways and stairwells will be marked for one-way traffic.

To help prevent students from facing each other and exchanging droplets in the hallway, all traffic in the school building should be one-way. There will be markings on the ground and on the walls to indicate the direction that students should be walking.

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These are just a few of the ideas schools will be considering for their re-openings in the age of Coronavirus. There are a lot of detailed decisions that need to be made, and many school districts are working hard to figure out what will work best for their students and their communities. It is likely that these considerations will evolve and change once students are back in the building and administrators see what is feasible and what is too complicated to implement. Whatever they decide, it will be in the best interest for the students, staff, and community members in an effort to keep everyone as safe as possible.

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