- In some school districts, the pandemic hastened long-overdue modernization efforts, especially for technological upgrades. Many newly redesigned learning spaces also include furniture that allows for flexible arrangements, more device integration and stronger Wi-Fi capacity, and large monitors and projectors, according to EdTech: Focus on K-12.
- For example, Portland Public Schools in Oregon continued planned modernization efforts during the pandemic by rebuilding or renovating four schools with better tech and flexible furniture options. One of the selected schools, a high school, will feature STEM labs, a makerspace for project-based learning and an outdoor plaza.
- Flexible furniture choices can include desks with casters for easy movement or curvy and rectangular desks that can be pushed together. Seating consists of traditional hardback chairs, as well as ottomans and wiggly stools.
Though the need for social distancing and rearranged classrooms took on new importance during the pandemic, the push to reimagine classrooms and shift away from rows of desks facing the front of the classroom was also already well underway. Eventually, pandemic-era partitions and plexiglass barriers will come down, but the trend toward flexible furniture and other modular features will likely continue as classroom configurations evolve to more closely reflect modern workspaces.
Robert Dillon, director of innovative learning for the School District of University City in Missouri, urges taking a "designer" approach when reimagining learning spaces. In embracing a designer mindset, leaders should also allow opportunities for students and educators to try and test different types of furniture to find what works best prior to making bulk purchases and undertaking full redesigns.
Furniture changes also don't have to break the bank. For example, when a counselor in University City needed a cool-down space for students that also had a community feel, a fluffy pad, swing and bench were added for about $800. Furniture from IKEA is often more affordable but durable enough to last through the next classroom redesign.
The pandemic also put a renewed focus on the condition of school facilities at large, and particularly on heating and ventilation systems. The U.S. Government Accountability Office reports half of the country’s 13,000 school districts need to update or replace heating systems. Currently, many schools have HVAC systems that recirculate air from one room to another.