Editor's Note

The Slow Return to Normalcy

It’s hard to believe that another school year is well underway. More students, faculty and staff than not have returned to campus for full-time, in-person learning at K–12 and higher education institutions around the country. The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t in our rearview mirror quite yet, but after 18 months, it feels like there’s very little to say about it that we haven’t heard a thousand times. From wearing a mask to maintaining social distancing to getting the (now FDA-approved) vaccine if you’re eligible, the basic guidelines of living during a pandemic are pretty well established.

In the meantime, students especially seem enthused about the opportunity to resume real life and see their friends again. The benefits—both social and educational—of being surrounded by our peers instead of staring at a computer screen are too many to count. It’s nice being able to make small talk in the hallways again, or for a teacher to notice a wave of confusion ripple across the class during a lecture and clarify a point in real time. It’s not as nice having to set your alarm for 7 a.m. instead of 7:45 for an 8 a.m. class, but every situation has its drawbacks.

The content in this issue of Spaces4Learning reflects our odd hybrid state of getting back to normal, but still being mindful of a pandemic. You’ll find pieces on how schools can best utilize ESSER funds. The importance of handwashing and other basic hygiene practices. How schools can maintain and monitor indoor air quality.

But you’ll also get a glimpse of what vendors and educational institutions alike have been up to in the last year and a half. This glimpse comes via the results of our summer awards program, New Product of the Year, and our fall awards, the Education Design Showcase. The New Product Award program celebrates the exemplary product development achievements of manufacturers and vendors in the education industry. And the Education Design Showcase lets institutions show off innovative and practical solutions in planning, design, architecture and construction. All of the winners in both competitions represent the finest instances of ingenuity, resiliency and resourcefulness under pressure.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Matt Jones is senior editor of Spaces4Learning. He can be reached at [email protected].