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44 square meters: a detective story about the reopening of the school



How exactly did the district find out that 22 students couldn’t fit in a 770 square foot building? Room? Of course, it was possible – perhaps very likely – that no geometry at all was included in this decision. However, when I got back to the district’s plan and flipped through the 140-page colossus of flowcharts, graphs, color-coded tables, and details on everything from safety drills to budget issues, I landed on the formula: To determine how many desks there are According to the plan, every school in the district could measure the dimensions of their rooms, subtract furniture space, and divide the remainder, measured in square feet, by 44.

In other words, every student in my district would be allocated 44 square feet.

It turns out that this requirement, which had no obvious connection with six foot social distancing, isn̵

7;t limited to schools in the Hudson Valley. I googled a little and started seeing the number all over the place. North Carolina school districts have a standard for reopening: 44 square feet for each student. New Jersey school districts have a reopening standard: 44 square feet for each student. And many New York school districts other than my own have a reopening standard: 44 square feet for each student.

Where the hell did that number come from?

My district had outlined his plan, and I knew it was unlikely to be changed. Even so, I couldn’t help but dream that maybe, just maybe, I could find a better, more sensible answer to the distance problem – one that would enable my children to avoid repeating the distance learning disaster they and others recently suffered had spring. For its own sake, too, the mystery of 44 gnawed at me like a sudoku puzzle that I couldn’t quite solve. In any case, I knew I had to dig a little deeper.

The explanation in my district’s reopening plan only made things more confusing. The choice of 44 square feet, it is said, would allow “three feet of personal space and a six foot circumference” around each child. OK, that explained why 36 square feet wasn’t enough. But how could these requirements be combined to achieve 44? In a grid of 9 foot square spaces, each student would have 81 square feet. In a 9 foot circle tiling, they would each take 64 square feet.

Finally, I reached out to the administrators in my school district and asked them the question directly. It turned out that the 44-sq.-ft. The number was from a consulting firm called Altaris that the district had hired to help with re-entry plans. When I reached out to Altaris, its CEO, John LaPlaca replied that he found the number in a guide on social distancing in school published by Education week.

I downloaded the file and took a look. A graphic at the bottom of the first page had a multi-level formula next to the question, “How many students can a classroom fit?” First measure the dimensions of the room, it was said; Then subtract the area taken up by the furniture and divide the remaining space by 44 square feet to give each student 3 feet of personal space and a circumference of 6 feet. Yes, it was determined! But it still made no sense. A chart next to the formula showed students sitting in a 9-foot grid, which in turn implied that each would get 81 square feet rather than 44 square feet.

Just when I wanted to get in touch Education week To clarify, I noticed a tiny print at the bottom of the graphic: “SOURCE: National Council on School Institutions and Cooperation Strategies.” Ah, now I had surely reached the end of my journey. I just had to pull back the curtain.


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