We must modify existing educational facilities to allow the continued education of our students. We cannot allow the COVID-19 crisis to steal a year from our children.
Re-opening our schools requires planning. Here are a few ideas to help.
It starts with hardware and software that enables students to access all needed textbooks and lessons from their own tablets. Sharing textbooks and handouts is no longer acceptable in a COVID-19 world.
In the past several decades, larger new schools have been built. Large schools decrease per-student operating costs, but they are prime environments for spreading COVID-19. We recommend a return to smaller school buildings. We will not be surprised to see parents consider building school size when choosing a school.
Another recent building trend is multi-story schools where students never need to go outside. This is a great design for energy- and land use efficiency, but it creates a challenge when attempting to limit the spread of COVID-19. We recommend building classrooms that open directly to the outdoors.
For campus security, these building designs require the construction of “no-touch” entry gates that can be quickly changed to “no entry.” The technology is easy to put in place –the challenge is creating a “friendly environment” that is also safe and secure.
All surfaces that students touch – such as doorknobs, door push/pull plates, and faucets – should be copper plated. Copper is an anti-viral metal that does not require constant cleaning.
Restrooms should be designed so that students can enter and exit without opening a door. All sink faucets and soap dispensers should be automatic on/off, no touch design. All surfaces that are touched should be copper plated.
Cafeterias should follow the lead of restaurants to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Create and increases spaces for outdoor dining, and provide more take-out lunches. Increase distance between tables –long tables and benches are out.
For classrooms, we recommend increasing the number of supply air diffusers, so air flow in occupied areas is decreased, and fresh air is more uniformly distributed. All diffusers should be located to prevent air from blowing on students. All return air grills should be located one foot off the floor. These changes will help in keeping air from blowing from one desk onto another.
We recommend increasing the amount fresh air brought into classrooms, and reduce the amount of recirculated air. All recirculating air should pass through an ultra-violet light filter that will eliminate viruses.
Many parents want schools reopened, but they also want their children safe. But little government assistance is being provided to schools. This article is a starting point, but these recommendations may or may not work for your specific school. If you would like to discuss your school’s needs, please contact me, Mick Rich, at firstname.lastname@example.org.