Several Massachusetts colleges and universities have released their plans for the fall semester amid the coronavirus pandemic and one Boston design firm is helping them get ready to welcome students back to campus.
While some institutions have opted to stay remote, others are opting for a mix of in-person and online instruction to try and keep students and staff safe while continuing to provide quality education.
"What we're seeing, there is a real deep conversation around how do we let students come together in smaller groups and really allow them to flourish, grow and learn together," Lynne Deninger, a principal at CannonDesign said Thursday.
CannonDesign's Boston office is working with several colleges and universities in using design to adapt existing classrooms, residence halls and campus spaces to promote a safer college experience amid the pandemic.
"People are using design as a way to provide physical cues to new social norms. So for example, having to stay six feet apart, walking in particular directions," said Toni Loiacano, who focuses on academic environments.
Loiacano added that CannonDesign is seeing huge technology upgrades to provide the hybrid class model while moving away from large lecture halls.
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"One thing they're going to see is less people, so in all of the classes, in terms of design, it's figuring out how to make people feel comfortable and warm when there are less bodies, and so some simple things are less furniture," Loiacano said.
Lynne Deninger, who focuses on student life, says some furniture will also be removed from common areas, along with shared equipment like refrigerators and microwaves. Double rooms in residence halls may also be turned into singles and HEPA filters may be used in smaller spaces to increase proper airflow.
"It's really just about trying to keep the students, faculty and staff as safe as they can be," Deninger said.
Another piece of this puzzle is that the guidance is constantly changing, so colleges and universities will need to use design to remain flexible as September gets closer.