Unusual Seating Arrangement For 1st Grade Kids At Alton Central School (ACS), NH

Anura Guruge, laughing, picture November 16, 2011.

by Anura Guruge

They changed the seating arrangement to a more traditional one on Friday, September 7, 2012.

Monday night, from 6pm to 7pm, was Open House at Alton Central. I liked Teischan’s 1st Grade Class Room. The teacher, who I had met last year, was very nice and you could tell that she was trying hard and had spent a lot of time over the Summer getting things ready for the classroom. You could tell. I was impressed. [My mother was a teacher; my father, at 83, still teaches and when I had called him that Monday I was told that he had gone to the University to set up his room.]

I was taken aback by how the tables for the 17 kids were arranged. I first thought that it was an ad hoc set up just for the Open House — but was told that it was how the kids will sit in the weeks and months to come. I was surprised but didn’t want to say anything in front of the other parents.

The set up is as depicted in my diagram above. I went and checked the dimensions of the desks online. From what I can see they are 18″ deep, 24″ wide and the height can be adjusted.

There is ZERO separation between the desks. They are pushed together, 9 tables to a pod.

The kids are sitting, at most 44 inches, NOSE-to-NOSE.

Yes, I know that the staff at ACS will produce 40 research studies, from around the world, to prove that this nose-to-nose, shoulder-to-shoulder seating configuration is the one most conducive for contemporary teaching (if not learning). I will only have one question: ‘were any of them done in a school in New Hampshire with at best, sub-bar mechanical ventilation?’

My foremost concern is health related.

Six weeks from now the sniffles will start. Then the sneezing and the coughing. Soon the flu season will be in full swing. With this kind of seating arrangement we are not giving these poor kids even a fighting chance. Of course, exchanging germs is a treasured rite of passage in New England. But, do we really want the kids exposed to this? Lets face it. These are 6 year olds. They are going to sneeze, wheeze and cough. Their noses and mouths are 44″ apart. Most married couples don’t sleep that close!

This teacher, most likely on her own dime, had provided two huge hand sanitizer pump bottles, one for the boys and the other for the girls, next to their bathroom passes. I was impressed. That was good. And then this …

Yes, space might be an issue, also given the modern notion that a classroom has to be multimodal, or whatever. If space is the issue I am sure an architect or somebody familiar with CAD/CAM can help the school out. Worst case I can do a perfectly to scale PowerPoint, with all the furniture and equipment, and they can drag and drop the objects to see how they can fit 17 desks without the kids having to be 44″ nose-to-nose.

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