Coronavirus (COVID-19): How To Prepare Schools For Reopening
With over a month of social distancing completed, many schools around the country have successfully transitioned into online learning platforms. Applications such as Zoom have created an at-home classroom experience, and many parents are stepping up to help their children with lesson materials. However, questions remain as to what the future may hold if schools reopen for the upcoming school term.
Every region of the United States is reacting to COVID-19 differently, depending on factors such as population size, confirmed cases, and available healthcare. Every school will have a unique approach to both how and when to reopen, depending on the area in which they reside.
While the decisions needed to be made are not easy; there are several options, opportunities, and alternative actions to consider.
Increased Health Monitoring and Precautions
Our nation’s education system faces an unprecedented challenge in rethinking the way schools operate. Steps toward reopening schools may include the increase of health monitoring procedures and the possible addition of suggested or required PPE, if appropriate. Students may have their temperature checked as they enter the building, while PPE procedures and wearing N95 masks may be considered as a requirement for teachers and/or students. Regimented and frequent deep cleaning procedures will also likely be a requirement in every school.
A blueprint for back to school has been released by The American Enterprise Institute, outlining steps that schools can take to reopen their facilities. “Families and communities need schools to be ready to reopen as soon as public health officials signal it is safe,” the report says. “After all, the nation has recently been reminded just how vital schools really are. Schools connect students with peers and mentors, channel youthful energy into productive pursuits, teach essential academic skills and knowledge, and give overwhelmed parents room to breathe and work.”
Staggered Schedules and Blended Learning
Staggered schedules and blended learning could help control classroom sizes once schools reopen. One idea is that some students could attend school on Mondays and Wednesdays while others learn online. Then the other students could attend in the classroom Tuesdays and Thursdays. On Fridays all students could attend online. Others have discussed morning and afternoon shifts.
Although it is not ideal, staggered schedules may be the simplest way to implement decreased classroom sizes for many schools. Taking this approach would likely also require development of a more robust online learning platform.
Decreased Class Sizes
Experts say that finding a vaccine could take up to a year or more- so the option to keep schools closed is likely not feasible.
According to NPR.org, a researcher at the Institute for Scientific Interchange in Italy, claims that “putting children in the smallest groups possible will make a dramatic difference in the spread of the virus”.
Some schools have already begun to reopen, like Denmark where classroom sizes are 10 students per classroom, with one teacher. Other teaching specialists such as music or art teachers may continue to teach their lessons remotely over video chat. Denmark is also allowing just five children at a time for playground breaks. Small groups of children may be the best way to reduce the risk of virus spread, if it were to be present on site. It is also easier to ensure that students are following proper health procedures when they are in smaller groups.
Decreased class sizes and blended learning are excellent possibilities to help schools reopen. But access to modern technology in each student’s home is unreliable. This poses a threat to the success of these approaches.
In-classroom and Online Learning All on Campus
Because of decreased class sizes, schools face the issue of not having enough teachers. But with temporary modular buildings, this may actually be feasible. For example, half of the students per classroom could attend class in a temporary modular building. The children would watch their teacher remotely, but in a building right on campus. This could be accomplished by the students watching the teacher on a video chat. Additionally, they would have the help of a classroom aid to ensure students are staying productive and safe. Students could also rotate morning and afternoons, or multiple days a week. This would allow them to experience both teacher-student interaction, as well as video sessions in real time. This would be a modular solution to the staggered schedule concept. Furthermore, this would help working parents get back to a normal schedule with their children attending school five days a week.
Modular buildings can also increase space capacity for larger gathering areas such as: cafeterias, locker rooms, libraries or even an on-site health care building for COVID-19 testing. The modular building opportunities are endless, and they could be returned after they are no longer needed by your school.
Renting a modular classroom also means no major capital expenditure from schools, but rather affordable monthly lease payments. Modular classrooms may be the best option for schools who have the available space on their campus.
Modular classroom buildings are quick to assemble and can be delivered right to your school’s campus. They are a practical solution to creating additional space for students. This is especially true in a time where social distancing may be important.
If your school is looking for reopening solutions amid COVID-19, then contact us today to discuss how modular buildings could work at your school. Our highly experienced team is ready to help schools like yours navigate this extraordinary challenge.