Going Back to School in COVID-19 Environment

By Stuffey | May 20, 2020

COVID-19 forced universities and colleges to graduate the class of 2020 virtually. Summer schedules are continuing at some higher education institutions, still online. Yet many schools are hoping to be back on campus come Fall. The pandemic makes providing a safe, secure space for students more challenging. There are many ways storage solutions can help.

Reopening campuses is subject to controversy across the country. Young students want a return to the independence of campus life. Institutions, meanwhile, face serious financial implications if students don’t return to campus. The American Council on Education estimates, “enrollment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, including a projected decline of 25% for international students, resulting in a revenue loss for institutions of $23 billion.


Additionally, per the ACE, revenue-generating areas such as “services to students, faculty, and others, including dormitories, food services, bookstores, health and recreation facilities, and the like” are estimated to decline “by 25 percent, which is conservative relative to the numbers institutions have been reporting so far.”

A Chronicle of Higher Education report further predicts “greater than 5 percent of the more than 4,000 U.S. colleges and universities are likely to close.”

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Of course, institutions of higher education can’t reopen simply because they require the revenues. Population safety is paramount. Considering that staff and faculty will be interacting regularly with a younger population less likely to social distance, some continue to call for virtual learning through 2021.

Others note that if school does go back to campus, changes must be made. That’s where storage solutions can make a difference.

Changes on Campus Post COVID-19

In looking forward to a future on campus, administrators and decision-makers need to consider how to enable social distancing, create conditions that support a disease-free campus and continue to provide a campus community. The next sections consider these challenges and the positive impact storage solutions can make.


Support Social Distancing

Rolling occupancy is one of the top options for returning to campus. Design firm Gensler notes supporting rolling occupancy requires creating “strategies to de-densify existing spaces, rethink underutilized space, and incorporate structures to support hybrid set-ups for digital and physical use.”

Patterson Pope has storage solutions that can help with de-densifying, rethinking space and supporting hybrid use. It’s what we’ve been doing for many different purposes on campuses nationwide for decades.

Modular casework is quick to install and easy to reconfigure. Instead of built-ins, you can make decisions for new storage solutions that are flexible and can adapt to new needs as the post-COVID campus situation evolves.


Installing compact mobile shelving on a campus allows you to store more books in less space. Plus, you can repurpose the saved space for socially distant collaboration areas, multimedia stations, study carrels or computer stations. The compact shelving itself can also help delineate areas to de-densify spaces.

Movable walls are another easy addition to the campus environment. Using customizable designs and configurations, movable walls help render a floor plan into several highly useful spaces that offer greater social remove.

Smart lockers also recognize that the college experience is temporary and transitory. Day-use lockers paired with campus IDs can provide faculty, staff and students with somewhere to secure their belongings and keep them germ-free.

Create Conditions for Disease-Free Campus

The solutions already described are the first step in creating disease-free campus solutions. At the same time, the institution can make decisions that facilitate the CDC’s cleaning and disinfecting regulations.

Institutions will want to:

  • Ramp up professional cleaning
  • Upgrade ventilation
  • Enable good hygiene practices by installing disinfectant and cleaning stations more prominently
  • Integrate antimicrobial technology

Antimicrobial materials can be used in furniture, fixtures and equipment. Patterson Pope offers many lines of storage solutions with anti-bacterial and antimicrobial finishes that are durable in the face of frequent cleaning.

Additionally, our easy-to-clean laminate or powder-coated steel can also help an organization meet hygiene standards. Selecting a resilient, nonporous surface also supports a disease-free campus as these items can better withstand frequent bleach cleaning.


Considering Campus Experience Too

The higher education experience isn’t only about academics. Being part of a campus community is a major influence on student retention. So, colleges and universities can’t overlook student life in reimagining the campus environment.

Some institutions are likely to cancel sporting events, or play them in empty stadiums, but even tailgating could pose a risk. Weekend concerts, all-campus lectures, spiritual gatherings and most campus functions with groups larger than 10 will need to be reconsidered.

Nevertheless, when students are back on campus, package delivery lockers, athletic storage and multi-use spaces designed with social distancing and disease prevention in mind can help.

With package delivery lockers, a campus can cut back on person-to-person contact in a mailroom and do away with lineups to collect mail. A student could be texted a message to a networked locker letting them know their package or food delivery has arrived. Then, using an RFID scan of an ID or a mobile app and a phone or smartwatch, the student can open and retrieve the assigned locker.


Athletic storage solutions from Patterson Pope can offer a “Wow” factor to appeal to prospects. At the same time with moveable and lockable storage, complete with improved ventilation capabilities, it’s easier to keep shared equipment clean and accessible.

Another way to use storage to create distinct and multi-purpose spaces? Adding storage cabinets that can serve as an island or movable wall. Flat-file cabinets, for instance, can provide a convenient work or display surface. And they come with a non-reactive, solvent-free, powder coating to provide a quality, smooth finish.

Changing Campus Conditions

Institutions of higher education face many challenges as they work to continue educating amidst the COVID-19 situation. Campus conditions have to change in order to give students, staff and faculty the feeling of safety needed to keep the focus on learning. There are many education storage solutions to help maximize the learning environment while making room for social distancing, supporting a disease-free campus and contributing to the overall feeling of a campus community.

You don’t have to go back to school to learn about the top storage trends on university and college campuses. That’s our job. Our team is here to help you find the best short or long-term storage solutions to adapt to the evolving needs of higher education today.

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About Stuffey

To say that Stuffey was made for this role would be an understatement. A life long hoarder, Stuffey understands how the Laws of Stuff can wreak havoc in the real world of an organization’s space. Now as part of his reformation, he is committed to passing on to you his secrets in our battle against the tyranny of STUFF.

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