Designing a Coronavirus Compliant Classroom

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,

Haley

Nearly Nine Months of Trusting God

God’s faithfulness to me this past year in providing answered prayer cannot be understated. Here is a brief summary of how God met me in my convictions and used obedience for radical change.

October 2019: Decided that I would be leaving my previous District of Columbia Public Schools teaching context. I did not know it at the time, but this would eventually lead to transitioning into a religious education context.

November 2019: Ending a relationship

December 2019: Applying for Virginia Theological Seminary to pursue a Doctorate of Educational Leadership in Educational Ministry, Moving into a new apartment.

January 2020: Starting to search for a new job (for the following school year).

February 2020: Accepted into seminary! Various ongoing health struggles due largely to chronic, work-related stress.

March 2020: Coronavirus closes down schools. FINALLY getting a chance to emotionally and physically rest (quarantine was an answer to prayer)!

April 2020: Starting Spring/Summer coursework for seminary.

May 2020: Distance Learning in full swing.

June 2020: Getting off dating apps for good! Deeper levels of surrender with job searching.

July 2020: Finally finding my current job, teaching 3rd and 4th grade all subjects at a bilingual Catholic school in my neighborhood. I didn’t know it at the time, but this would include starting every day in prayer and helping design curriculum to teach about the Holy Trinity and the gospel. Major budget overhaul! Committing to online training through Global Celebration School of Supernatural Ministry (GCSSM). Securing my principal’s support for a 9 month long contextual study on the history and culture of my school, thereby positioning myself to learn many things about school leadership.

August 2020: Starting my new job, finishing up final papers for summer seminary coursework, and beginning to find more tutoring jobs for supplemental income.

Praise God for his faithfulness this past year! I am excited to see what God will do next. One area I am trusting him for in faith is by providing income for me to pay my seminary tuition for this coming year (about $6000 due in May 2021-August 2021). I am believing that God will remove this obstacle because as it says in James 5:16, “the prayers of the righteous availeth much”.

In order to offset these costs, please join me in praying that I will find:

  1. High paying tutoring jobs
  2. Scholarships

Due to the fast-paced nature of this season of life, I am planning to write a monthly newsletter to ask for prayer and share important updates. If you are interested in signing up to receive updates, you can sign up below!

Finally, “(May) Christ dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Ephesians 3:17-19).

Until next time,

Haley

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