Two bills, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act in March and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act in December, set aside $190.5 billion to help schools. This money could represent significant changes in the architecture of future schools.
“Schools can use this opportunity to think three, five, or ten years down the line. Schools need to be thinking about how changes could better prepare them for weathering something like this in the future,” said Danny Carlson, associate executive director, policy and advocacy at the National Association of Elementary School Principals.
Contactless features top the school construction wish list. Touchless faucets, urinals, and toilets, commonplace everywhere from offices to gas stations, don’t frequent schools; building planners intend to change this. Architects plan to put advanced technologies, including AR and VR, in the works to help students go hands-free.
Improved air circulation and HVAC systems, with an eye on increased fresh air access, filtration, bipolar ionization, and UVC treatments, also made the list. “We believe the greatest impact COVID will have on school facility design will and should be a renewed focus on connecting to the outdoors,” said Brandi Rickles of Lake Flato Architects. “Operable windows, opportunities for direct access to outdoor learning environments, exterior circulation paths, as well as increased fresh air from HVAC systems will improve the health and wellness of students and teachers.”
Teachers want flexibility. The past year brought educators new ideas on old traditions. Rows of desks with the teacher up front and clusters of desks with the teacher moving around layouts yield both problems and benefits. Students learn on devices; this instills a more relaxed attitude in teachers regarding regimentation.
“Now that students can really take their learning anywhere, they will make greater use of comfortable spaces that provide an opportunity for a change of scenery that many schools have been investing in,” said Callie Gaspary, principal architect and educational facilities specialist at Mosaic Associates. “The ability to relax while learning makes the school day less rigid and more enjoyable. Schools will continue to invest in spaces that incorporate movable walls, flexible furniture, and seating that supports a range of uses from one-on-one to small groups to class or community meetings, as the functional use of every space is leveraged.”
In addition to buildings slated for renovation, the rapidly growing residential market requires thousands of new schools in the next few years. Covid relief funds support the initiative to build these schools to accommodate the increasing population.