The Irish Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) finally produced interim guidelines for the reopening of schools this week. One of the things that jumped out at us was the idea of pods and bubbles. While social distancing isn’t required up to 2nd class, after that, they recommend that classes are divided into “pods” where an unspecified number of pupils sit and there is 1m between each pod. There also needs to be 2m between the teacher’s desk and any of the pods. I popped into my school to configure some potential classroom set ups. I decided that given Irish class sizes I would work off a 32 pupil classroom. Here are some of the plans I tried out. Please remember that this classroom is in a modern school building, built in 2013. Most RGD buildings are around this size. However, most schools do not enjoy this size of a classroom so you will have to adjust these plans to your own classroom’s dimensions. In fact, you may not be able to fit all your pupils into the room.
This is a set up that many classrooms today will be familiar with pre lockdown. Tables are laid out in groups of 4. This model has the advantage of being familiar but it is a bit of a squeeze, especially those at the window. Within the pods, it is impossible to have much distancing. However, as I went through all the configurations, no pod could do 1m distancing. I thought of 3 possible layouts of seating for this configuration.
1 and 3 ensure that everyone can see the front of the room. Number 2 allows for the most distancing to occur within the group.
Let’s look at some other configurations.
These are bigger pods and give the advantage of more space within the room to walk around. Pods are quite crowded if everyone needs to be looking to the front of the classroom.
There was no way to fit one child on a single table with 32 children in the room so this was the best I could do. If you have less than 32, there’s a way of pacing some children on individual tables, where this is needed, for example children that find it very difficult working in groups. This configuration gives some flexibility but it very squeezed in terms of the single desks.
This layout reminds me of when you’re doing standardised tests with classes. All we need our school bags in the middle of the tables so there’s no peeking! This layout is just about possible for 32 children but it leaves very little room for moving around. Of all the configurations, it leaves the least amount of space.
This was how my classroom was laid out when I was in primary school except the teacher’s desk was in the middle rather than the side. This configuration helps with space except if you happen to be sitting by the window. It’s like going to the cinema and trying to get past all the people to get to your seat!
This configuration means 2 pods within the classroom. I’m not sure if this is too many pupils in pods but it looks like a nice clean model. The only disadvantage is if there are pupils that find it hard to work in groups.
Obviously these configurations only work in classrooms that are big enough to be able to fit 32 pupils. Ideally there shouldn’t be anywhere near that in any classroom but this is Ireland. While the above images may not resemble your classroom at all, they may provide some inspiration when you are designing your own classroom layout for these COVID-19 times.