As the new academic season starts the schools world over wait to reopen. There are some parts of the world which have seen the reopening of schools. In the US, Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) has released a checklist for administrators to abide by when the schools reopen. The items in the checklist, as expected, pertain to disinfecting, screening, social distancing and covering of faces.
It is predictable that the learning environment of the schools will be impacted in the aftermath of the pandemic but will the pandemic influence the architecture and design of the schools in the long term remains to be seen. A number of designers and architects across the globe are of the view that the schools will have to change in terms of design and architecture in order to sustain social distancing culture at least until there occurs widespread vaccination. And probably some of the design changes may stay.
We have tried to collate views of some influential interior designers and architects to provide insights into the area of school architecture and design in this article.
With regard to the design changes that will be desirable for the schools when they reopen, James E. LaPosta Jr., FAIA, LEED AP, Principal, Chief Architectural Officer at JCJ Architecture, US, say that there will be some operational level changes in the classrooms in order to create physical distance between children. This may include reducing the number of students in the class by organizing distance learning in which children may not be necessarily at home but at different locations within the school building.
According to Julia McFadden, AIA, associate principal and K-12 sector leader for Svigals + Partners, New Haven, Connecticut, US, it may not be feasible for schools in terms to time and funds to build additional classrooms or increase the size of the classrooms and so they have to go for strategic space utilization. Some measures may include use of colored tape delineate circulation patterns and create six-foot queuing distances on the floor. The same can be replicate in the lunchrooms and library. Then there is the changes in social design which means rotational schedules of in-person and distance learning after dividing students into several groups. There is also a need to utilize the activity areas of the schools for instruction. There are support areas in the schools such as gymnasiums, auditoriums etc. where furnishings can be replaced with desks to carry out instruction and avoid overcrowding. Outdoor classes are also a great option as long as the weather permits.
Jason Boyer, AIA, LEED AP, Principal at Studio Ma, Phoenix, AZ is of the view that children are going to encounter the new normal as they step into the classrooms once again. The environment they will find themselves in will be dominated by the concerns and activities centered on hygiene, disinfection and air filtration. It remains to be seen how all this affects the learning experience. The classrooms like all spaces for a collective will see a lot of measures that are basically not inspired from proactive design but are reactions to the situation we are faced with. It is still too early to speak of any long term design changes in the classrooms but with time there will be changes in the coming years to enable schools to combat disruptions like these effectively.
According to John Kirk, AIA, Partner, Cooper Robertson, an international architecture and urban design firm New York City, the changes in perception and thinking that bring about design changes will become measurably manifest after 5 or so years.
Mark A. Sullivan, AIA, LEED AP, partner with Joshua Zinder Architecture and Design, New Jersey,is of the view that design changes in the short term will not be visible. The manifest changes will only be on the level of hygiene and sanitizing protocols. Apparatuses and systems will be concentrated in these areas.
On the basis of the views expressed by the experts it can be safely concluded that there will be design changes in the school scenario in the coming years, the developed nations might take a lead in innovations and executions in these areas and other nations might follow them in their own time.
The Changing Dynamics of Educational Infrastructure In terms of School Architecture and Interior Design
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