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Architecture and Schools in a New World of Social Distancing

The impact of the pandemic, lockdown and social distancing will be felt for many months to come. In fact, it might change the way that we live our lives from day to day for many years to come. One area that has been impacted drastically is the education sector and with schools aiming to come back in the UK with full attendance later on in the year, there is now a drive to ensure the safety of children and staff members to prevent the spread of infection whilst allowing education to return in an effective way. With the help of the best architecture firms and designers, innovative ways of making this possible are being looked at and it will be interesting to see how it pans out as the kids return to school.

The way that children return to school will look drastically different to how parents and children are used to. At first, only small groups will be permitted to return to school, and in the future, it could be within a framework of shorter-term times and classrooms that are designed to function in a different way. The idea will be to create classrooms that allow for distance and space, and routes around the school building that can be easily followed by students and minimise the risks of the spread of infection in as safe a way as possible without having a detrimental impact on the quality of learning provisions.

One area that is being looked at is how to repurpose the space that is already available in schools, both inside the classrooms, within community facilities and in outside spaces (weather permitting of course). This will all be down to the processes put in place by management and how the new timetables will impact on the need for different spaces within different types of schools and for different ages of pupils. It could be that a solution in a school for primary age children is drastically different to a college for those students studying for their A-Levels.

On average, the new social distancing measures will mean that there can only be as many as around 10-12 pupils in each classroom at any given time. What this means is that there is a requirement for around double the teaching space that schools are used to providing. Designers are looking at ways to safely utilise outside spaces, school halls and gyms and the repurposing of other areas that might usually be left un-used for large periods of the day.

We all want to be able to return to our ‘normal’ lives that we were used to pre-lockdown. Children need an education, and as well as many have been doing working from home with their parents and guardians, speaking to teachers on Zoom calls and carrying on as best as they can, a return to school is the best way to ensure a proper education over the coming years. One thing is for sure – there cannot be a return to schools in their current state due to the risk of the spread of infection, so it will be down to the architectural innovators and creative designers to find the solutions that are practical, efficient and fun. It is going to be an interesting time for the education sector.

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