Flexible Seating + Classroom Equity = Student Success
Oceanside Unified School District (OUSD) needed to update all the classroom furniture in their 15 K–5 elementary schools, which combined to serve over 9,000 students. The existing furnishings were outdated, featuring heavy student desks with attached seats and piecemeal storage solutions. The school district had several remodeling and construction projects planned, but the issue of updating furniture was more pressing in the short term. Three of the schools were on Camp Pendleton military base, which meant that designers and installers needed clearance to access the classrooms. The challenge was further compounded by the ongoing supply chain crisis as well as the short timeline: just 12 short weeks while students were on summer break.
To streamline the process, OUSD pulled together a committee of teachers from across the district who could gather insight and feedback from the broader community. Demco then translated that information into product and design recommendations. The committee selected a few “early adopters” to implement and test the new furnishings ahead of the district-wide installation. These pilot classrooms allowed teachers to observe how students used the seating and work surfaces, as well as how teachers arranged and moved around their spaces. Learnings from the trial period revealed that the initial student chair selection wasn’t ideal for the project, and the Demco Tidal Stack Chair would be used instead.
OUSD prioritized equity by keeping furnishings alike across all classrooms and buildings. Each classroom offers a selection of flexible seating and adjustable height desk tables, and the same products and colors can be found in neighboring classrooms and schools. Because of this consistency, teachers can move furniture seamlessly between rooms, grades, or buildings to accommodate shifting student numbers. And as students move from one area to another, they can be confident that they’re getting the same resources as their peers; no school or class is perceived as “better.” The familiarity of the pieces can also remove new classroom or new school anxiety because students know what to expect and how to adjust their desk to their needs.
It was important to the school district that classrooms provide flexible seating options for their students. While Demco Tidal Stack Chairs (in a selection of sizes) make up the bulk of the seating, OUSD also wanted to provide floor seating and seating for students who might struggle to focus in a stational seat. Classrooms added a selection of Tenjam Twisted Hexes, SAFCO Runtz Ball Chairs, MooreCo Dots, Muzo MBob Floor Seats, and Smith System Oodle Seats as alternatives. Work surfaces were just as flexible, with rectangular adjustable height desks implemented across all buildings. Locking casters make it easy for students or teachers to arrange them into groups or other classroom layouts; different classrooms include horseshoe-style arcs, traditional columns, groups of four and six, and stadium style rows with tiered desk heights. Teachers opted for squiggle and horseshoe style tables or Silhouette Sit/Stand Desks. Each classroom was also outfitted with ample wood shelving for storage to keep classroom clutter at a minimum.
Students were delighted to arrive at a fresh new school year and see the transformation that had occurred over the summer break. One teacher described the experience as a “gameshow unveiling” with screams of delight. Students enjoyed exploring their new seating options, storing supplies in their desk trays, and rearranging the room with the new moveable desks. OUSD was extremely impressed that the project was done in such a short timeframe and felt Demco was a great partner every step of the way.
“When I tell people from outside of our school district about the project, they can’t believe the large-scale project that we were able to complete so smoothly and successfully,” said Dr. Andrea Norman, Associate Superintendent of Business Services. “Typically, school districts will do one or two schools at a time. To do 15 schools in one summer was a pretty big undertaking, but it could not have gone better because of the planning and direction of Demco.”
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