Starting a new job this year has been nothing if not eventful. But after a warm welcome and a week of meeting my colleagues, I was finally in my classroom! The bare walls and open floor plan cried out, “So…what about coronavirus?”
At this point, nearly every active teacher in America has been reflecting on the CDC’s classroom coronavirus recommendations. In order to design a healthy, sustainable space (and before moving in all of my teaching supplies), this was the challenge:
- Desks should be spaced 6+ feet apart
- There should be only one line of traffic to the cubby closet (like a loop)
- Most previously shared materials needed to be placed in small kits for individual use
- Students should not be facing directly opposite one another
- There should be plenty of sanitizing products and masks available for use
I am happy to say that my school has been nothing but supportive in supplying masks, that we have more than enough school supplies to design individual kits, and that most high traffic areas of the classroom are relatively easily to label. As an independent school with just under 220 students and 25 teachers, creating cohorts of 9-10 students to attend school biweekly was comparatively simple.
But what about student seating?
Now it was time for math. With large measuring tape, a set of 1 inch graph paper, a ruler, protractor, and writing tools, I began creating a model of my classroom.
First, I took measurements of my classroom with a tape measure. Ultimately I learned that the classroom was 22 x 29 ft, which is considerably larger than many of the classrooms of my colleagues across D.C..
Next, I used 1 inch x 1 inch graph paper to construct a model of my classroom. Scaling my model to 1 inch = 1 foot, my model became 22 in x 29 in. I then created scale models of the trapezoid tables (2.5 ft x 5 ft x 2.5 ft x 2.5ft) we have (using a tape measure for length and width, and a protractor to determine that the corners of the tables were 60 degree angles). Important stuff.
Third, I played around with the trapezoid table construction paper pieces until I was certain that atleast 5 feet was between each of my students (in this model, lovingly portrayed as glue sticks. Because I’m hilarious, I represented myself as largest glue stick. I even drew a little smile on the lid with sharpie).
At this point I gave myself over to humor and created bookshelves, scale models of my rugs, and labeled the exits and entrances. With a little feedback from my vice principal, we settled on this tentative design.
Ultimately, by the end of this activity I felt like I was designing a doll house, and any concerns I had had about coronavirus were considerably relaxed.
While coronavirus is intimidating, I feel confident that we have what it takes to have a wonderful, safe school year. While the small size of my school, the cohesion of the staff, and the wisdom of our leaders has made it so that this current classroom design fits coronavirus guidelines, most people’s schools probably won’t make drastic changes. Especially for the neighborhood I work in, which is a coronavirus hotspot for D.C., I sincerely hope that parents, school leaders, policy makers, and politicians keep these limitations in mind in making informed decisions for the public good. Project accomplished! And yes, I will still be keeping all these cut outs to tinker with for when and if plans change.
If you know a teacher who would benefit from designing a coronavirus-friendly classroom, feel free to share this idea! You can download the graph paper template I used here.
Last of all, if anyone has technical expertise in creating apps, I can’t tell you how many teachers around the world would probably benefit from a classroom design app that is pre-loaded with the CDC’s classroom environment guidelines. If there was ever a time for app designers to serve educators, now would be great!
In my next post, I will be exploring how I have repurposed classroom shelves (which are now empty of shared student materials) to create a verdant, tranquil space.
Until next time,