The COVID-19 pandemic has made the term “social distancing” a regular part of our daily lexicon. Large gatherings, like sporting events and concerts, are largely postponed as we fight the spread of the virus, but many group activities remain an essential part of our lives. We need to go to the store to pick up our groceries, and kids need to get an education.
During the pandemic, the approach to schooling has been largely determined by the number of cases in an area and local restrictions. Some schools are maintaining remote learning, while others are cautiously reopening their doors and figuring out how to best maintain socially distanced learning.
Social Distance Challenges
Effective social distancing requires structure and compliance. Historically, in-person schooling has been a very social activity. Students and teachers gather together and move from classroom to classroom and then to the lunchroom and the gym throughout the day.
Disrupting entrenched behavioral patterns is a major challenge. The school administration and teachers can implement health checks, require facemasks, introduce staggered schedules, and create smaller classroom pods, but kids are still learning how to focus and control their behavior.
While it is going to take time and trial and error to learn the best way to maintain social distancing in schools, introducing physical barriers is a powerful first step.
Solutions for the Academic Setting
The threat of virus transmission has forced a radical shift in the way schools approach group learning. Recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other regulatory agencies help guide schools through this challenging environment.
What kind of solutions can be put to work in different parts of a school?
- Classrooms. Classroom safety has always been paramount to schools. In the age of COVID-19, safety measures include maintaining adequate distance between teachers and students. For example, schools can use Sneeze Buddy social distance separation panels between desks to help keep students and teachers safe while facilitating group learning. These panels are reconfigurable, allowing schools to move them and adjust them to meet their needs.
- Gymnasiums. School gymnasiums are large, open spaces that normally pack in hundreds of students and staff for assemblies and sporting events. Now, these spaces need to be approached differently. Industrial curtains can be used to create separate enclosures, allowing smaller groups to still use the space.
- Cafeterias. Cafeterias are also large gathering spots for schools. Industrial curtains can be used here as they are in gymnasiums, creating smaller, enclosed areas to adhere to maximum capacity requirements.
- Hallways. The hallway environment has always been less structured than the classroom. Students are rushing to their next classes, stopping at their lockers, and catching up with friends. But, schools still need to think about hallway safety. Industrial curtains can be set up as hallway dividers, keeping foot traffic moving in one direction. Entrances to designated areas off of hallways can also be sectioned off with curtains.
- Buses. Bus protocols developed by Education Weekly recommend limited capacity, distanced seating, a barrier around the driver, mandatory facemasks, regular disinfection, and open windows to maintain the circulation of fresh air.
AmCraft has completed a project for a South Barrington, Illinois high school, providing curtains for the school’s cafeteria and gym. Learn more about how we can help your school follow the necessary safety precautions as the world continues to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.