As per the Unlock 5.0 guidelines, schools, colleges and other educational institutions in India can also open outside the control zone after October 15. However, the decision on whether to reopen educational institutions rests with states/union territories. In the US, NYC reopened all of its public schools for in-person classes last week, the only large district in the US to do so.
Despite the uncertainties, one thing is clear: Technology will play a stronger role in supporting education as we look to the future. Schools will need to ensure that physical spaces meet public health guidelines to prevent further outbreaks and keep students and educators safe.
From UV sanitation of the school buses to fever scanning at school entry, tailor made technology solutions will help reopening of schools safer and easier. For example, the Meadows School in Nevada USA has partnered with Remark's AI Thermal Kit solution which allows for fast, touch-free scanning of multiple students (up to 120 people per minute) as they enter through established access points on a school campus. The system instantly and discreetly alerts faculty and staff of any person with a skin temperature that suggests a higher-than-normal body temperature, allowing onsite personnel to conduct a secondary temperature check.
Some schools are also experimenting with continuous temperature monitoring to prevent an outbreak. Solutions such as the BioButton, developed by BioIntelliSense is a coin-sized disposable wearable that continuously monitors a user’s vital signs like temperature, respiratory rate and heart rate, providing a “cleared” or “not cleared” status for each user before leaving for school every morning.
Another company called Actuate is also getting into pandemic-era school surveillance. The company normally sells artificial intelligence that mines through school security video feeds for signs of a brandished weapon, an anti-gun violence measure but is now offering AI that measures how well people are social distancing.
For social distancing within the classroom, Tools like the Ergotron TeachWell Mobile Digital Workspace acts like compact mobile workstation giving teachers the freedom to move around the classroom while maintaining social distancing protocols among the kids.
Other infrastructure changes lean in this direction as well. The LocknCharge charging kiosk, for example, offers a contactless way for students to charge and pick up their devices. Device sanitization units also present a single destination for efficient disinfecting of laptops and tablets using UV-C light. Another novel approach involves the potential use of small drones to clean classrooms and shared spaces quickly and efficiently.
To make best use of all these enabling technologies going forward, schools will need creativity, intelligence, funding and abundant preparation for a radical new normal.