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The sooner we can design COVID-proof schools, the sooner children will be allowed to return

The sooner we can design COVID-proof schools, the sooner children will be allowed to return

"Don't waste a crisis," says white paper by ROAR's Pallavi Dean

Time to lose the traditional classroom?
Time to lose the traditional classroom?

The pandemic is a chance to overhaul the way we design schools, says a report by Dubai-based interior design firm ROAR.

A total of 135 education professionals were surveyed for the white paper titled '7 Perspectives: How COVID-19 Will Transform the Design of Education Spaces.'

It found 79 per cent agreed with the statement: “Don’t waste a crisis: education spaces will never be the same again."

This is an opportunity to rethink the design of educational spaces, the paper moots, with fewer traditional classrooms and more WeWork-style co-working spaces.

Long-term solutions
Long-term changes in the design of education spaces will be driven by long-term changes in teaching - particularly the shift to blended learning.

87p per cent of respondents agreed that “Blended learning - a mix of physical and digital - is here to stay.”

Time to flip? More than 70 per cent agreed that the traditional classroom should become one flipped to a model of blended learning with the teacher as the added value. And three-quarters that it was time to lose the traditional classroom -  "is a relic of the 19th century, ill-suited to the needs of 21st century learners.”

A big winner from this shift will be WeWork-style co-working spaces and spaces missed during home-schooling, such as science labs, sports halls, maker spacers, drama theatres and playgrounds.

Spaces that could be sacrificed to make way for these could include corridors and flamboyant architecture may also be sacrificed. 89 per cent of respondents agreed with the statement: “Some owners have wasted money on vanity projects, wasting money on glitzy architectural facades - money that should have been spent on the interior."


Short-term design solutions

The top priority in the short-term is to reduce the ‘density’ of children in each space. some schools have already begun re-purposing sports halls, canteens and corridors into makeshift learning spaces.

Reinforcing of social distancing could come through design elements like graphic on floors and walls. New elements could also include touchless toilets; anti-microbial materials for desks and door handles; hospital grade [HEPA] air filters; and medical isolation rooms for children and staff showing symptoms of the coronavirus.

Pallavi Dean, founder and creative director of Roar, says: “Home learning has really made us think about the physical spaces in a school where the magic happens, both in terms of educational attainment and personal enrichment. We need to create more of these spaces – and not waste precious real estate on spaces for humdrum tasks.”

“The sooner we can design COVID-proof schools, the sooner we can get children back in schools, and in greater numbers,” adds Pallavi.

Other important issues the white paper highlights is the mental wellbeing of children and staff and affordable schools, which often have less space per child (c. 8sq m) than premium schools (c.11 sq m) and designers would need to 'do more with less.'

Pallavi concludes: “Moments like this are a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rethink the way we design our schools and colleges. Each school, each child is different, so there’s no one-size-fits all approach, but there are some general principles that we must try to apply going forward when we build or refit schools and colleges.”

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