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Guía para ventilación en aulas (Classroom Ventilation Guide). Instituto de Diagnóstico Ambiental y Estudios del Agua, IDAEA-CSIC. Mesura (October 2020)



School space challenges in the face of the pandemic (II)

Image: Open air school for girls in Afghanistan. Source: Pixino. (Creative Commons).

Almost three months after reopening, schools have proven to be safer places than  expected with regard to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Ventilation, constant disinfection, and the use of masks have turned out to be efficient tools in the fight against the virus. Apart from those health measures, however, and as I warned in my previous article, it remains to be seen whether sufficient attention has been paid to schoolchildren’s wellbeing. With that in mind, let’s take a look at the spatial changes that have been implemented most frequently in schools and the architectural, social, and pedagogical issues such changes ought to raise.

  • Use of exterior spaces not only for recreation but also for schoolwork, because the infection rate is 20 times lower in open spaces. Unfortunately, this has not been one of the most widely adopted measures. The use of new technologies inside the classroom, the lack of suitable furniture and the discomfort of outdoor spaces have not encouraged their habitual use as classrooms. The pandemic has therefore come to reinforce the need to reconsider the potential of school playgrounds as places of social and academic learning and connection with the neighbourhood, and the urgency of using vegetation and furniture to turn them into suitable environments for that purpose.
  • Natural ventilation in classrooms and the spacing of pupils. This has been the most difficult thing to achieve because classrooms are scaled to allow 1.5 m2 per pupil and because many of them lack cross ventilation. Now that the weather is much colder, pupils are obliged to stay inside their schools, wrapped up in coats and blankets and with the heating turned up full. Moreover, with the windows open, staggered break times for different classes and traffic in the streets outside considerably raise noise levels, making it difficult to communicate inside classrooms. All this creates conditions that are hardly conducive to learning. One interesting document addressing this aspect is the CSIC guide 1, a publication which, following the recommendations of Harvard, proposes alternative forms of air management and offers solutions (forced ventilation and HEPA air purification systems) which it would be wise to consider in future school facilities.



    • Staggered entering and leaving of school by pupils. Another interesting issue raised by coronavirus is the need for large urban spaces that can accommodate pupils and their families at school dropping off and picking up times. Proposals like eliminating parking zones or pedestrianizing streets at certain times of day should be consolidated as permanent measures when the pandemic is over, as should the encouragement of sustainable transport.
    • Organized routing in corridors to avoid crowding. Although at present such spaces can only be organized on a functional basis, it is important to start making them more spacious and to assume their importance as places indispensable for socialising and interaction. If one thing has become clear in these times of pandemic, it is that the affective relationships generated in schools are just as important as the academic syllabus, and this reality must be taken into account at spatial level.

    In a recent article, UNICEF reported that 320 million students all over the world are unable to access classrooms, warning of the “harmful effect of school closures on the learning process and on children’s wellbeing”2. It should be remembered that many schools constitute a source of food and safety for marginalised and vulnerable children. Let’s hope that careful reflection on the pandemic will also help generate “vaccines” in areas such as school space, and that this will lead to friendly, inclusive environments that cater to all the needs, both physical and psychological, of the education community.


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Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
Notas de página

Guía para ventilación en aulas (Classroom Ventilation Guide). Instituto de Diagnóstico Ambiental y Estudios del Agua, IDAEA-CSIC. Mesura (October 2020)


Es arquitecta por la ETSA de Sevilla (2003) y Máster en Arquitectura y Patrimonio Histórico (2008). Primer premio por su fin de carrera en la XXI Edición del Premio Dragados. Se forma en el estudio de Ricardo Alario, con quien comparte actualmente actividad profesional . En 2011 funda junto a Tibisay Cañas, Laura Organvídez, Ana Parejo y Sara Parrilla cuartocreciente arquitectura, una iniciativa creada con el objetivo de mejorar los tres espacios principales en los que se desarrolla la niñez (casa, escuela y ciudad) a través de la investigación, los talleres de arquitectura, la realización de proyectos y el diseño de objetos. Actualmente desarrolla un tesis sobre el espacio de juego exterior en la infancia, dirigida por Ángel Martínez García-Posada. Ha escrito y presentado diversas comunicaciones sobre el playground y el juego del niño en la ciudad.

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