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Back to schoolwith a twist

For K-12 students, teachers, administrators, and other staff, the pandemic has changed the way schools will look and the way kids will learn forever. While vaccinations have helped lessen the spread, new variants may require continued vigilance. Below, we’ve outlined some of the biggest areas of change that K-12 staff should consider in the coming months—and beyond—and the solutions we have on hand to help make the adjustments as seamless as possible.

SHARED SPACES REIMAGINED

Cafeterias can pose heightened risks when it comes to crowding, loud talking, and dining in general. But there are many ways to design the cafeteria with both safety and convenience in mind.

Cafeterias

  • Use cafeteria tables that offer an easy-to-clean surface for students and staff to dine on.
  • Outfit the space with stackable chairs for easy storage and transport.
  • Keep germs at bay with plentiful garbage and recycling options.
  • Boost hand hygiene with portable sinks and handwashing stations.
  • Create a more modern, touchless environment with hands-free water bottle refilling stations.

Libraries pose another challenge. In addition to reducing physical books in favor of e-books, librarians are moving to a cart delivery model where students place orders for books online, and librarians deliver them to classrooms on carts.

Libraries

  • Use service and utility carts to quickly and efficiently transport books from one area to the next.
  • Organize and store textbooks and other reading material with library-specific furniture.
  • Make lesson plans portable with mobile whiteboards.
  • Protect and secure computer equipment using mobile computer carts.
  • Place hand sanitizer dispensers in easily accessible areas for clean hands on the go.

From reducing class sizes to spacing out desks accordingly, the classroom environment should remain fluid, adaptable, and easily reconfigurable. Start with these solutions.

Classrooms

  • Create a more productive workspace with desks designed for both students and staff.
  • Maintain storage and security—all in one place—with computer cabinets and carts.
  • Keep learning both convenient and engaging with erasable steel whiteboards.
  • Use science and lab furniture to give students dedicated areas for conducting experiments.
  • Improve indoor air quality with air scrubbers that filter out allergens, dust, bacteria, and more.

Hallways are always bustling with activity. So, it comes as no surprise that in high-traffic areas, like hallways, it’s especially important to maintain cleanliness and order.

Hallways

  • Safeguard backpacks and student belongings with lockers made of durable, long-lasting material.
  • Display health posters, school announcements, and more with enclosed bulletin boards.
  • Replenish janitorial carts frequently to meet increased cleaning demands.
  • Keep cleaning and maintenance supplies readily available.
  • Use floor signs to help students stay alert to wet floors and overall traffic flow.

OPERATIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

Schools must adopt permanent solutions to address sanitation and testing as they plan to reconfigure learning environments and open spaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published an online handbook dedicated to effective cleaning and disinfecting for schools, which can help guide administrators in the right direction. Part of their advice includes:

Implementing ongoing testing

Regularly testing staff and students means having the right testing protocols and equipment, including advanced digital thermometers and reminder posters throughout the building. Some schools have started to use wristbands to verify successful tests with an easy visual cue.

Installing touchless devices

Bottle fillers, handwashing stations, towel dispensers and hand dryers, faucets, toilets, trash cans, and even automatic doors can be brought into schools to eliminate any cross-contamination fears. Some schools are taking the touchless concept even further, investing in contactless devices that monitor students’ temperatures, track attendance, detect masks, and automatically open doors on their behalf.

Improving ventilation and filtration

Sufficient ventilation is of the utmost importance in today’s environment. In addition to keeping windows and doors open when possible, the CDC recommends using fans to improve room air mixing, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters in central HVAC systems, and air purifiers. According to one recent study on high schools, air purifiers made a big difference in schools: while window ventilation reduced COVID-19 infection by 55 percent, adding an air purifier dropped infection rates by 75 percent.

Boosting cleaning efforts

Everyone on school grounds will feel more at ease if they see dedicated resources for improved cleaning efforts. Frequently touched surfaces, like doorknobs and light switches, should be cleaned and sanitized regularly. For busier sanitation schedules—and more surfaces to clean—new equipment is needed to help small teams do more with less hands. Consider cleaning sprayers, which can disinfect large areas with ease.

K-12 SUPPLIES

Making these changes isn’t easy—or inexpensive. Luckily, help is available. In 2020, Congress passed two relief bills creating more than $67 billion for elementary and secondary school emergency relief. Many schools have already taken advantage of these funds for construction projects, technology, PPE, sanitation, filtration and ventilation, and physical spacing projects.

More recently, the American Rescue Plan was announced, which will provide schools with $122 billion to reopen safely. And the CDC will be providing $10 billion to states to support COVID-19 screening for K-12 teachers, staff, and students.

As you prepare for the 2021-2022 school year, give peace of mind to your staff and students as many of them come back to the classroom full time. We can supply everything you need for a safe K-12 reopening.

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