COVID-19 Response

Toolkit Offers Facility Ideas for Safe School Reopening

If you can run a COVID-19 temperature check every 20 seconds, three students can enter a lone school building entrance every minute. For a school with 100 students, that's a 30- to 35-minute process; for a school with 500 students, it would take nearly three hours. In those scenarios, how would the students congregate for their health checks, and how many could the sidewalk by the entryway accommodate if students stood six-feet apart?

Those are the kinds of issues raised in version 1 of a new report developed by Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools. The "Brooklyn LAB Back to School Facilities Tool Kit" offers ideas for developing a learning environment that highlights safety, health and well-being of everybody in the school community.

Brooklyn LAB is a school that primarily serves low-income students, with programs that emphasize more time in school; college preparation; a STEM focus; intensive tutoring; frequent opportunities for enrichment and "passion-driven" learning; and partnerships with local businesses, colleges and research centers.

The report was developed with input from a number of design and urban planning organizations, all of whom envisioned how to get people into the facility and help them move around without a lot of physical proximity. Contributors included PSF Projects, SITU, Urban Projects Collaborative, Gensler, PBDW Architects and WXY. The ideas follow guidelines for schools already published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Federation of Teachers.

While the details relate specifically to Brooklyn LAB, the organization has intended the report to be useful to any other school. Content covers "mapping a safe journey from home to school" and "upgrading the school" to accommodate physical distancing through remapping of classrooms, breakout rooms and common spaces.

The organization has also developed an early version of an instructional program scheduling map, to help schools sort out staff scheduling, class configurations and planning considerations. That project had its own set of collaborators, which included Dezudio, PBDW Architects, EdTogether, the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS), Public Impact, TNTP, and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University.

Brooklyn LAB is hoping to get people engaged in focus groups to provide feedback on the toolkit in coming weeks and months. And it is seeking feedback about the contents from those who download it through a survey.

The facilities toolkit is openly available through the Equity by Design website.

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.