August 21, 2020 | Blog

COVID-19 Safety: Where Should Plastic Barriers Be Installed in Schools?

Local and state governments, educators, and parents are facing tough choices these days when it comes to the start of the fall semester in schools. For those schools that do plan to resume in-person instruction this fall, putting measures in place to keep students and faculty safe is the number one priority. 

You’ve likely seen plastic partitions popping up in your local grocery stores, banks, and restaurants for several months now, especially where maintaining a 6-foot distance from other people is not possible. These barriers are also being widely adopted by schools to provide protection during in-person instruction. In fact, the use of barriers is consistent with recommendations from the CDC as a means of controlling exposure to the COVID-19 virus.

Those responsible for school facilities are tasked with determining where barriers will be installed. This article outlines a collection of ideas from Cope customers that may soon become best practices as students return to the classroom.

Thermoplastics such as acrylic, PETG, polycarbonate, and PVC sheets are well suited for these applications due to their transparency, scratch resistance, and cleanability. The nonporous surfaces of these materials make them easy to clean and disinfect. 

Each of these materials has different characteristics. Whether your solution needs to be temporary or permanent, our Cope Plastics team has in-depth knowledge of all of our materials and can guide you to make the right selection for your situation.


In addition to physical distancing as much as possible, plastic barriers for student desks are one of the top devices currently being deployed. Partitions can be fabricated in all sorts of shapes and sizes to accommodate different styles of student work stations. Single desk shields and four-panel table dividers are being widely adopted depending on classroom configurations.

Shared Spaces

Libraries, computer labs, and other common areas in schools are also places to consider. Barriers between computers can be installed in labs and workstation dividers can also be set up in places like libraries that offer communal work tables. 


If your cafeteria is open to students for mealtimes, sneeze guards and lunch table dividers can offer extra protection. Frequent cleaning of these items, especially between lunch shifts, is a best practice for keeping the environment safe and clean.

Administrative Areas

Transparent barriers in administrative areas (such as school reception or residence hall front desks) can also promote healthy physical distancing between school staff and the students and visitors they interact with. Transparent barriers can be installed where face-to-face conversations must occur, and any type of desk barrier shield or dividers may be used to separate desks or workstations.

Cleaning & Disinfecting

Depending on the material used in your facility, the ideal materials for cleaning and sanitizing will vary. 

For acrylic materials (sometimes referred to as the trade name Plexiglas), avoid cleaning with alcohols (e.g., ethanol or isopropanol), solvents (e.g., acetone). Commonly used glass cleaners such as Windex can damage the surface of your acrylic barriers. On these materials, it’s best to use diluted quaternary ammonium-based compounds, 5-6% diluted bleach, or 3-5% diluted hydrogen peroxide.

For polycarbonate materials, ammonia-based compounds can cause damage. Use diluted solutions such as less than 10% sodium hypochlorite, ethanol, isopropanol, or 3-5% diluted hydrogen peroxide.

For all materials, be sure to wipe down your panels or barriers as often as possible, at least between each shift. Using microfiber cloths rather than paper towels can also prevent scratching on your surfaces. Scratches both impact the transparency of your materials and provide cozy spaces for bacteria to grow. 

We’re here to help

Getting your school environment ready for students and faculty again is no easy task. If you are looking for help with barriers and partitions, Cope Plastics can help! We offer both permanent and temporary barriers and guards. Our expert team will work with you to find the solution that best matches your needs and budget.

Whether you need pieces made to suit your environment or are just looking for the materials, we can provide what you need. We work with many of the nation’s top plastic manufacturers and can readily supply acrylic, polycarbonate, HDPE, PETG, and more…and with so many choices, our expert team can help you select the material that’s right for you. 

No matter how you’re starting the school year, the team at Cope Plastics wants you to stay healthy, stay safe, and stay educated!

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