Even with summer in full swing, school systems across the United States are working to figure out what is going to happen with their facilities this fall. Big questions are looming which could shape the face of schooling as we know it. Are students going to return to school? If so, what will that look like?
As schools try to determine how to approach the “new normal”, Yearout Energy has some ideas on how to respond effectively to the pandemic and the safety questions that accompany it for any school facility.
Determining Exactly What “New Normal” Means
The first step in determining how to respond to the needs of an upcoming school year is to figure out just what the “new normal” is. Are students going to come to school two days a week and learn from home the other two days? Will different groups of students alternate being on or off campus? Will students have to stay in their classrooms throughout the day, eating lunch and having recess at their desks? What about enforcing mask-wearing for students or installing partitions?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single consensus about what the new normal will look like (yet). School administrators and communities are having to figure out what normal will mean based on their local needs. While each school system will have individual concerns, there are several common factors from school system to school system that will need to be addressed.
Considerations for School Facilities
There are three major considerations that each school system will need to take into account before determining their next steps in prep for the 2020-2021 school year.
- Governance – What regulations are schools going to be falling under? Government regulations will be setting minimum standards for schools and may differ from state to state and even from district to district.
- Community concerns – What do parents, teachers, and faculty want and need in order to feel safe in school facilities? These questions may be difficult for larger districts, like Albuquerque Public Schools, to determine, as they will need to survey a larger group of people.
- Students’ needs — How are new facility standards going to affect kids and their ability to learn? How can you minimize bad effects on students who need the most help? How can you reduce the gap for students who don’t have access to the tools they need in the home setting?
Each school system will need to evaluate these issues on a case-by-case basis. From there, they will have to decide where to take their facilities and how they can best create conditions for a successful reopening.
How Schools Can Prepare for this New School Season
Because of all of the considerations that will be unique to individual school districts, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for facilities to implement. But there are general guidelines in a few key categories that school systems can look to for best practices.
School administrators should look for opportunities in the following areas:
IT infrastructure — Even as schools reopen, there’s a chance that they will need to remain flexible for implementing a combination of at-home and in-school learning. From email infrastructure to phones and WiFi set-ups, if a school hasn’t already ensured that its IT infrastructure is up-to-date, this summer is the time to do so.
A/V and technology tools — Alongside IT infrastructure, schools need to ensure that their audio-visual and technology tools are up-to-date in order to stay flexible to changing demands. There is a good possibility that students will need to do a combination of at-home learning and in-school learning, and school systems need to have the tools to respond appropriately.
Space constraints and utilization — Once schools open, they may be subject to rules regarding occupancy rates. They need to decide how best to use their existing space to meet these requirements.
Mechanical systems and indoor air quality — One of the biggest concerns with indoor spaces when it comes to keeping the coronavirus under control is air circulation. Schools will need to look into using UV light technology, air purification, ventilation, and building pressurization to help staff and community members feel more comfortable inside.
Sanitation and cleanliness — While school facilities have always had diligent janitorial staff, new rules on sanitation and sterilization processes may require more intention and documentation than before.
How Yearout Energy Can Help Schools Prepare for Their New Normal
Yearout Energy has years of experience helping school systems determine ways to follow best practices for space utilization and energy efficiency, and a response to the pandemic falls within the purview of our abilities.
First and foremost, Yearout Energy can conduct an initial assessment of your school’s infrastructure. From mechanical systems and HVAC systems to IT infrastructure, Yearout Energy has experience in fully assessing existing facilities. We also work with partners who can help identify solutions to meet the expectations of government officials, community members, staff, and teachers, so you can get ahead of next year’s planning.
Yearout Energy can also help present new technology and ensure that your staff and other community members understand it. This includes the benefits and possible drawbacks of any new system or tool. We can also help you weigh different options and explain your choices to your community.
For instance, if the government regulations dictate that your classrooms don’t need plexiglass partitions to keep students safe, but a number of your students’ parents are lobbying to have the partitions installed, how can you determine what is best for your school? Yearout Energy can go through plausible scenarios, tools to respond to them, and possible outcomes to help you make the best decision.
Yearout Energy’s Personal Stake in How Schools Operate
Finally, because Yearout Energy is a leading member of our local communities, we have a personal stake in what happens with schools going forward. Many of our employees have students in local schools, and we are not just watching what is going to happen; we are actively researching the best ways that we can respond, as an organization and as individuals, to make sure our students’ needs are met.
If you are a school administrator looking to find concrete solutions to help your facility be ready to meet students in the new normal, get in touch with Yearout Energy today.