At the end of 2019, we were looking forward to a new decade, a fresh start and another year at MMS. However, this year turned out differently than anyone could have imagined. We were left with a number of questions to confront as we started planning for the 2020-21 school year. Was it possible to provide a virtual Montessori education? When would we be able to return to our environments? If we were able to have in-person lessons, what would that look like? What precautions and safety measures would need to be taken? In part one of this three-part blog series, we take a look at the physical planning it took to allow the majority of MMS students to return in person for the 2020 school year.

At Maria Montessori School, students dictate their own learning using hands-on materials and items to help them grasp concepts and ideas. Students are grouped together in mixed-age classrooms, allowing older students to teach the younger as they collaborate on projects and tasks. Our hands-on, collaborative environments are not ideal as we all adhere to COVID-19 health and safety regulations. This caused us to stop and rethink the Montessori Method. After speaking with medical professionals and other Montessori schools across the globe, we developed a plan that would allow us to return to our environments.

1. Sanitization stations
MMS staff knew that cleaning protocols must be enacted if students were to return to campus. To discourage the spread of germs and bacteria, MMS guides developed sanitization stations in each environment where children could drop off materials to be disinfected before their next use. Additionally, students are required to wear personal protective equipment and taught proper handwashing techniques.

2. Outdoor tents
As local, regional and national officials encouraged the use of outdoor space, we decided to create our own outdoor classrooms! We installed tents to create additional space, allowing our students to socially distance while they work. This gave us the opportunity to utilize our greenspace near the Wolf River, an area our students love!

3. Increase air circulation
After discussion with health officials and other Montessori schools, we decided to prop open windows and doors to increase air circulation and ventilation throughout our environments. This constant flow of air promotes a healthier environment, especially in combination with mask wearing.