How to Buy School Furniture: 7 Things to Remember, Not Regret
Last updated on August 3rd, 2022
Buying new school furniture to create modern, collaborative learning spaces is more than a monetary purchase. It’s an investment in students, teachers, and staff. Here’s how to make furniture selections that benefit everyone involved.
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Buying the Right Classroom Furniture Matters. Big Time.
If you’re reading this article, your school or district is likely eyeing new school or classroom furniture. That’s exciting. It’s also a big responsibility, given How School Classroom Furniture Can Improve Student Learning.
The biggest step you can take to narrow your choices is to work with an established vendor who specializes in PreK-12 furniture, like Smith System. We can help you accomplish your goals, maximize your budget, and prevent massive time and energy drain. View our full line of Classroom Desks, School Chairs, and Student Tables.
There are seven factors to consider before buying school furniture, especially as the clock ticks down on expiring federal relief funds. If you’re still on the fence, this information should help you make an informed decision.
Do Your Homework First
Yes, homework is for grown-ups too. We recommend that schools wait to sign a furniture purchase order until after doing some essential upfront prep. Identify what you want your school furniture to accomplish, beyond its obvious function.
Then share this information with your eventual school furniture partner at the outset of the project:
• Budget basics, including a prioritized budget, quantities needed, layout dimensions
• Short- and long-term vision for your school and district’s curriculum and culture
• Teaching strategies used, including those for social emotional learning
• The learning needs of your unique student body
• How teachers want to re-imagine their learning spaces
• Technology’s role in classrooms and power needs
7 Things to Consider Before Buying School Furniture
Whether retrofitting an existing space or furnishing an entirely new school campus, most educators and budget-keepers have a similar big-picture goal. They want top-value school furniture that will create safe, highly functional, and inspiring learning environments. It’s a bonus if school desks, school chairs, and classroom tables are designed to outlast any one administrator, teacher or student.
Answer these questions to pare down your furniture choices:
Does your school furniture promote student, teacher, and staff well-being?
The pandemic made “well-being” a top priority throughout schools, not just their counseling offices. Students can’t be their best learning selves, and teachers can’t teach (nor stay in the teaching profession) if they don’t feel well, physically, emotionally, socially and psychologically.
Look for furniture that fosters feelings of health and safety. This is about more than proper fit and comfort; It’s important to create spaces that empower students by giving them choices, like flexible seating options.
For example, some students may prefer a more traditional chair such as Smith System’s Groove® Noodle Chair. It allows a slight seat tilt in all directions, but with full back support. Other students may gravitate toward Flowform™ upholstered lounge-style seating or the Flowform™ Soft Rocker.
For more information on this, see these helpful blog posts: 5 Steps to a Flexible-Seating Classroom and Sanctuary in the Storm: How Classroom Design Can Promote Social-Emotional Learning.
Two: Quality and Value
Does your school furniture offer the best combination of quality and value?
Growing kids and teens are hard on furniture (and floors, walls, lockers, and more!). In general, classroom furniture should last 15 to 20 years. A pitfall for schools can be letting price alone, and the need to stretch every dollar as far as possible, drive furniture decisions. Factor in a mix of important criteria, including quality and durability.
Additionally, select a furniture manufacturer that is devoted exclusively to making educational furniture. Well-made, thoughtfully designed pieces will reduce repair and replacement costs, saving schools money in the long run. Because it’s true. You get what you pay for!
Is your school furniture flexible and multi-functional?
Most modern classroom furniture should do more than one job. It should be versatile, mobile and adapt to evolving pedagogy. A good example of this is classroom storage, like Smith System’sCascade® Two-Sided Whiteboard Unit. It’s a versatile, nomadic workhorse that replaces the traditional single-purpose whiteboard with a dual-purpose mobile whiteboard plus storage. The unit can be quickly repositioned to create learning or tutoring zones.
Also select students desks, like the mobile, adjustable-height Elemental® Student Desk – Huddle can work as a solo desk or cluster together to become a collaborative table.
It’s a student's right to be educated in an aesthetically appealing environment. Well-designed furniture will look great, but also stand the test of come-and-go trends and years of use/abuse. Longevity is a hallmark of Smith System’s furniture suite. So are safety, durability, comfort, and functionality.
Don’t forget the significance of having a variety of color options and a cohesive plan for furniture colors and finishes. Balance school-spirit colors with practical elements, such as the need to differentiate spaces or coordinate color by grade levels.
Five: Comfort and Fit (Ergonomics)
Is your school furniture comfortable and ergonomically designed to maximize learning?
When looking to buy school furniture, comfort is another important factor to consider. Spending long periods in a chair with substandard ergonomics can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, headaches, and neck and back problems – for kids and adults. If something hurts, performance suffers. In fact, it’s been shown that if chair ergonomics are inadequate, it can affect students’ concentration and skill development.
Check out Smith System’s Height Guide to help match your students with the suggested table height or chair height relative to their grade level. Smith System also provides many height-adjustable options.
Can your school furniture manufacturer fulfill most of your furniture needs?
Expedite your ordering process by streamlining the number of vendors you’re working with. Choose a furniture partner that offers one-stop-shopping with most everything your school needs to furnish classrooms, learning commons, libraries/media centers, makerspaces, labs and more. Doing so will help you consolidate delivery and set-up, and reduce piecemeal shipping costs.
Also remember that nuances in school furniture matter. Shape, color, and finish of chairs desks and tables work in unison to create inspiring learning environments. When starting to buy school furniture, you want to look for a furniture partner that offers a wide selection, including adjustable-height furniture, as well as mobile and easily portable pieces.
Seven: Customer Service – Furniture Availability, Shipping Time, Warranty
School administrators are busy enough without having to worry about something going sideways with their furniture order or the furniture itself. Supply chain issues have also left some school furniture manufacturers unable to fulfill replacement orders or new orders, which can be disheartening.
Fortunately, Smith System offers schools a wide array of classroom furniture staples, fast. Download Smith System’s free QuickShip Guide and learn how to get quality classroom seating, desks, and storage shipped in as quick as five business days, year-round, even in the summer.
Also check out the Smith System® Limited Lifetime Warranty. Our company has been around for over 100 years, making us a reliable resource when you need assistance or additional school furniture.
Smith Systems Simplifies Buying School Furniture
Knowing how to buy school furniture efficiently and under budget is a tall order. Weighing school furniture choices can be a big task. There’s an avalanche of options and many people eager to be involved. That’s all the more reason to partner with an established, top-quality vendor, like Smith System, who specializes in PreK-12 furniture.
We help schools view buying new classroom furniture as an opportunity to create something better – even exciting – rather than simply replacing existing pieces. We’re certain our furniture suite exceeds the “7 Things to Remember” list reviewed above.
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