While many US states have not made any definitive decisions regarding if or in what capacity students will be returning to the classroom in the fall, it is important for educators and school districts as a whole to be prepared for the prospect that students will be learning in-person while the coronavirus is still spreading. In order to ensure the safety and health of students and educators, there will likely be many rules and regulations in place, such as requiring students and staff to wear masks throughout the school day, enforcing social distancing measures, promoting additional hand-washing and sanitation practices, etc. By taking extra precautions during this pandemic, educators will keep as many of their students as safe as possible, which is the ultimate goal!
There are many resources available online for teaching students, with COVID-19 classroom seating and materials. These resources will provide educators with the information they need to make the necessary decisions about how to set up their classrooms, what supplies to carry, how to enforce mask-wearing and social distance regulations, and more.
- How to Transform Your Learning Environments for COVID-19: Sasaki, a global architecture and design studio, has put together an article providing educators with information on how to transform their learning environments amid the coronavirus. Because many states are considering re-implementing some form of in-person learning in the fall, Sasaki proposes various setups of classrooms and/or lecture halls in order to maintain social distancing requirements. In the ideal classroom during the pandemic, all desks face the same way, each student has at least 36 square feet of space, and the front of the room will have additional square footage for the educator and circulation of people. As classroom sizes across institutions may differ considerably, this article examines the impact of such strategies while taking class size into account. Additionally, it is noted that how educators are teaching in classroom environments will also need to change because hands-on learning and group work will be limited, and many will rely on online platforms for collaboration. This article is aimed toward those looking for a visual representation on what classrooms should look and how to make this happen!
- CDC Director Says Masks Are Key For Reopening of Schools: CNN provides a brief explanation of the CDC’s statement regarding the necessity of face masks for the reopening of schools. According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), masks work in protecting individuals from easily spreading and/or contracting the coronavirus, which is why school systems and educators should strictly enforce masks (for students who are medically capable of wearing masks) if they are returning to some form of in-person learning. On the other hand, many parents have voiced their concerns about their children returning to school and some school districts have already announced their plans to continue virtual learning, partial in-person learning, otherwise provide different learning options. For educators teaching at schools in these situations, wearing masks may not be a necessary conversation, but there is no harm in sharing this resource with students, as it is still important that they wear masks outside of the classroom.
- Plexiglass Dividers, Health Screenings Among Safety Measures in Districts’ Reopening Plans: Education Dive offers information on how certain school districts are handling the reopening of schools, which may give educators—and school districts as a whole—insight into how they should run their classrooms. For example, Detroit Public Schools is considering using cafeterias/auditoriums as classrooms, screening students for the coronavirus daily, and implementing partial in-person learning for high school students and in-person learning (with social distancing practices) for elementary/middle school students. Though this article focuses on the precautions school districts are taking, individual educators may find several tips useful, such as carrying extra face masks, setting aside time for students to wash their hands, spacing desks at least six feet apart, wiping down desks between classes, etc.
- Rethinking School Spaces and Structures to Maintain Proper Distancing Amid COVID-19: Spaces4Learning has put together an abundance of information on what school environments may look like when schools across the country begin to reopen amid the coronavirus and how educators can keep their students as safe as possible while also teaching them effectively. The author reviews the guidelines the CDC released in May on safe school reopenings, before presenting a couple of different instructional approaches that schools may use, such as the hybrid approach that combines face-to-face and online instruction, or the usage of non-instructional spaces for learning. For educators engaged in these various structures of learning, this resource will help them navigate teaching in a different environment.
- Heading Back to School in the Pandemic: UNICEF has compiled a brief list of countries (Bhutan, China, Egypt, Vietnam, etc.) which have allowed students to return back to school with certain regulations in place. In reading about how these schools were able to reopen, educators may also be able to implement the same techniques, including disinfecting classrooms, encouraging students to wash their hands, requiring students to maintain physical distance, and more. Educators can also hang posters around their classrooms and school halls reminding students about safe practices during the pandemic.
- Living (and Learning) with COVID-19 – Best Practices for Reopening Schools: Spaces4Learning has published an article on the best practices for reopening schools, with relevant information on how other countries have reopened schools, eight key changes to keep everyone safe from the virus, and other factors to consider when reopening schools. In summary, this piece recommends that educators, administrators, and school boards do the following: establish strict cleaning routines; enforce new distancing policies; monitor the health of students and staff; establish new policies for admitting visitors; limit or eliminate the sharing of materials; ensure indoor spaces are well ventilated; and finally, keep a constant supply of essential resources. Educators will have a lot to consider about how they should run their classrooms!
- Reopening Schools in the Context of COVID-19 – Health and Safety Guidelines From Other Countries: The Learning Policy Institute provides information on the health and safety guidelines other countries have adopted for school reopenings while the coronavirus is still spreading. By reading about how certain countries are handling reopening schools, educators can learn about particular health and safety practices they would like to adopt in their own classrooms regarding attendance, health screening, hygiene/cleaning, and social distancing inside and outside of class.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Operating Schools: CDC offers information on guiding principles students and staff members should keep in mind, promoting behaviors that reduce spread (staying home when appropriate, hand hygiene, cloth masks, supplies, signs), maintaining healthy environments (cleaning/disinfection, modified class layouts, physical barriers, shared objects), maintaining healthy operations, and preparing for when someone gets sick.
- Schools & Child Care: The CDC provides links to information on cloth face coverings in schools, screening students for symptoms, testing in schools, etc. In addition, there are printable posters and graphics on this page that may prove useful to educators who are looking for signs to hang in their classrooms reminding students to wash their hands, practice physical distancing, use hand sanitizer, stay home when they are sick, and more.
- COVID-19 Print Resources: These print resources from the CDC were created to support COVID-19 recommendations. Resources will advise students how to safely wear and take off cloth face masks, inform them about what precautions they can take if they are at higher risk, remind students to wash their hands effectively and cover coughs/sneezes, etc.
- K-12 Schools: The CDC supplies guidance and planning documents, web resources, FAQs, checklists, posters, fact sheets, videos, and more to support students, families, educators, and school administrators while some capacity of in-person learning is reinstated across the U.S.
Minnesota Department of Health
- Recommended Supplies for Schools – COVID-19: The Minnesota Department of Health has put together a list of supplies that students and staff should have access to in school during the coronavirus, such as face masks, soap, tissues, etc. At the bottom of the page, there is a small compilation of educational materials/resources educators can utilize in their classrooms.
- COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance for Schools and Child Care Programs: This guide for schools during the pandemic from the Minnesota Department of Health will help educators focus on the areas they need to clean daily in the classroom, along with advising them on actions to take when a student or staff member becomes ill. There is additional information throughout this resource on cleaning cloth face coverings, cleaning and disinfecting products, and other important actions to take.
- 2020-2021 Planning Guide for Schools: Minnesota Department of Health has created a planning guide for schools depending on the model of learning they will be using (in-person learning, hybrid model, or distance learning). This document touches upon social distancing and minimizing exposure, hygiene practices, cleaning and materials handling, transportation, supporting mental health and wellness, etc.
By taking further initiative to teach students while utilizing the COVID-19 classroom seating and materials above, educators will learn about how they can best protect their students from the virus through rearranging classroom seating, providing sanitation products, and more. Once educators take action to keep students safe and healthy, they can then turn their focus to the class curriculum!