By Jane Shepherd
It’s no surprise that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about enormous changes to the everyday lives of people across the globe.
When it comes to the education system, classrooms, hallways, extracurriculars and even buses will be modified with social distancing and cleanliness regulations in place to ensure that people stay as safe and healthy as they possibly can.
Although the term “social distancing” goes against the traditional highly collaborative and tight-knit norms of our current education system, the placement of furnishings and layout is a critical component in the prevention of spreading COVID-19.
The fundamental purpose of an educational space is to provide students with the tools needed to enable exploration and examination. Identifying the needs of the students should always be the first step taken before enforcing new protocols or introducing a new classroom layout.
When it comes to social distancing solutions, it’s important to identify the reason students need this change in order to feel safe and learn effectively.
The COVID-19 pandemic has isolated students from their peers for the past few months, and they will be eager to find a sense of normalcy upon their return to school.
Although safety is of the utmost importance, education facilities won’t have to completely change their look to achieve this — subtle and flexible solutions are available to help students social distance during a collaborative activity or find a private place to study.
Luckily, many manufacturers, installers, and designers for K-12 and higher education seating have witnessed just how the 21st century school campus is influenced by the need for collaborative spaces.
This need is reflected in open-plan and flexible learning spaces that support technology-enhanced environments where little physical contact is required.
As such, the growing trend of adaptable study pods is one of the better solutions for creating fit-for-purpose spaces and private study areas.
In addition to study pods, a wide array of lecture-style theater seats are available to educational facilities looking to maximize the use of their existing spaces while complying with distancing regulations.
Thanks to the style, versatility, and supreme comfort of lecture theater chairs, school auditoriums have the ability to transform their large and often empty spaces into efficient working environments where students can learn and remain engaged while maintaining an appropriate distance.
Choosing a writing tablet that has enough surface space to accommodate laptop computer use is key as we will, more often than not, see a rise in technology-based learning programs to reduce the need for face-to-face learning sessions with educators.
For students that still wish to have that physical interaction while complying with social distancing regulations, an auditorium seat with swivel technology provides mobility without actually moving from your designated seating space.
A school systems’ infrastructure, budget, supply chains, policies, and culture all contribute to their ability to operate safely after reopening. For instance, a school with unused classroom space and enough classroom aides could stagger schedules, space desks at least six feet apart, and facilitate more but smaller classes.
Although it is understood that classrooms will temporarily not be able to accommodate as many students as it once did, with the help of lightweight, folding, and moveable desks, it is possible to create a classroom environment that follows any type of distancing regulation.
First pioneered at Harvard University, the horseshoe shape learning method is an ideal method that utilizes furniture to create collaborative groups. Engineered with all seating types in mind, the horseshoe arrangement allows students to have eye contact with one another, as opposed to being sat in a row system and having to look directly behind someone’s head. The arrangement also allows the instructor to position themselves in the middle, which gives them a direct view of every single student, while maintaining social distancing measures.
Although we should proceed with caution when engaging in any type of social setting, furnishings play an imperative role during today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
How educators and operators choose to furnish their spaces makes the world of a difference when preparing students to re-enter the classroom.
Jane Shepherd is a director at Ferco Seating, www.fercoseating.com. For the past six years, she has brought a breadth of expertise from various industries, including construction and interior design, capital investments, as well as design consultancies.