Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools (LAB) announced the launch of its new “Back to School Facilities Tool Kit” to serve as a resource for schools nationwide to create fair, equitable plans to reopen their doors, while protecting the well-being of all students, teachers, staff, and their families. The tool kit was developed through a partnership with Urban Projects Collaborative (UPC) and five leading design firms: Gensler, PBDW, PSF Projects, SITU, and WXY.
The 100-page tool kit reflects insights and addresses early concerns from public health experts, students, teachers, parents, guardians, and schools. It serves as a visual guide for schools preparing to reopen after COVID-19 closures, presenting multiple ideas for facilities interventions focused on creating an environment that supports social distancing and other health-related requirements for both the journey to school and the classroom experience.
Schools across the country are anticipated to reopen this fall, but there is no clear roadmap for how to do this while prioritizing health and safety, especially for schools in dense urban environments. The “Back to School Facilities Tool Kit” is designed to serve as a collective, collaborative resource that any school can use to start conversations and begin preparation around how to protect the well-being of students, teachers, staff, and their families. The tool kit, which will continue to evolve to the realities of the pandemic, puts equity at the core, offering solutions that will effectively serve all community members, particularly students with disabilities.
“All reopening preparation must consider the needs of medically fragile family members, individuals with disabilities, people of color, and other groups who have been disproportionately affected by the consequences of the pandemic,” said Eric Tucker, co-founder and executive director, LAB. “We are sharing this tool kit not only to solicit feedback on an early version of our own approach to reopening at LAB, but to provide a collaborative framework for conversations with schools across the country.”
No school has the time or resources to tackle all challenges related to these upgrades alone, and LAB believes in advancing solutions that embrace equity. “As a laboratory school, we believe that creating and widely sharing design solutions and tools for effective adaptation is part of our mission,” said LAB chief financial officer Sheryl Gomez. “We encourage all school leaders to begin the careful preparation and revision of plans necessary to meet the needs of all learners this fall.”
As a founding partner of the Educating All Learners Alliance—a new partnership dedicated to educating all learners during the COVID-19 humanitarian disaster—LAB will be distributing the tool kit through this network and beyond.
Ideas from the tool kit include:
- How to map a journey from home to school that integrates new requirements for health and safety. The first set of ideas focuses on the arrival and entry process as students and staff transition into the building, taking into consideration the egress challenges LAB and many other schools face.
- How to upgrade classrooms to comply with social-distancing requirements. The second set of ideas focuses on practical and feasible re-mapping of classrooms, breakout rooms, and common spaces. These classroom upgrades focus on service mandates for students with disabilities and the well-being of all members of the school community.
The tool kit aligns with standardized health and safety recommendations from education leaders, as well as LAB’s own goals to build equity into the school reopening design.
The standardized recommendations include:
- Maintaining physical distancing.
- Putting the infrastructure and resources in place to test, trace, and isolate new cases.
- Deploying public health tools that comply with federal, state, and local guidelines regarding COVID-19.
- Involving workers, teachers, unions, families, students, and communities in all planning.
Beyond meeting these requirements, LAB set three additional goals for the tool kit. It must be:
- Focused on meeting the needs of all students, especially students with disabilities.
- Practical and easy to adapt to ever-changing circumstances.
- Modifiable for use by other schools in other contexts.
This is version one (V1) of the tool kit, and LAB is eager for feedback and input from the education community; learn more at the Back to School Facilities Tool Kit website.
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