Cal Coast Academy, a Carmel Valley, CA based private school, has completed its first few weeks of in-person learning. To many in the San Diego region, this was not only surprising but unheard of as nearly all of the schools in the San Diego School District remain closed for in-person learning resorting to virtual learning for the beginning of the school year.
However, to Cal Coast Academy’s many followers, the announcement that they would be open for in-person learning came as no surprise. Founder and Principal, Ms. Jan Dunning stated, “Cal Coast Academy has always adapted to diverse situations, the pandemic is just another bump in the road that the school has had to overcome. At my school, we think on our feet.”
In August 2020, Dunning released Cal Coast’s plans to build six large tents on the school’s property complete with flooring, electricity, and other modern amenities like a 50” computer monitor and Wi-Fi to make the open-air classrooms feel similar to indoor classrooms. As an institution that prides itself on its ability to cater to students who need non-traditional learning settings, the shift to outdoor classrooms felt like the best way to meet the needs of students, staff, and families.
Class sizes are small, limited to only six students per teacher, which allows for a socially distanced classroom. In addition to small class sizes, Cal Coast Academy is also taking extra precautions to ensure the safety of their school community through daily health checks of all faculty, staff, and students as well as additional sanitizing, outdoor hand washing stations, and mask wearing.
RELATED: How a School Expanded the Cafeteria Outdoors with Tents
As a 100% American Made custom tent manufacturer, it’s important to us to follow-up with our clients to make sure our products met their expectations as well as ways we can improve. We reached out to Cal Coast Academy to learn more about how they were using their open-air classrooms:
TentCraft: Hey, Spencer! Thanks so much for taking the time to meet with me. I wanted to learn more about how the tents are working out for you all?
Cal Coast Academy: Hey! Truthfully, we bought these tents sight-unseen and none of us are experienced buyers or users of tents before this, so there was no real way for us to differentiate your product against others. However, these tents far exceeded our expectations! I wish I could have seen the quality in-hand before we purchased them. These aren’t just standard tents; they are heavy-duty and solid. We couldn’t be happier!
TentCraft: Awesome! I’m so glad to hear this! What are some possible areas for improvements?
Cal Coast Academy: Well, this really isn’t a problem we were aware of truthfully. But, being that everything is outdoors and that our outdoor space is dirt, we are dealing with a lot of dust. So, we’ve been learning ways to cope with the elements. The side walls have been really helpful and making sure we seal up the tents every night has helped to keep the dust out.
TentCraft: Oh ya, I imagine that would be a problem. Have the side walls provided protection from the sun? I know that was a concern when you were originally placing your order.
Cal Coast Academy: Yes, and we were surprised that the walls don’t actually conduct heat. We expected them to heat up quite a bit, but they were surprisingly cool to the touch. We had one of the hottest weeks last week and the tents stayed fairly cool. We also have a fan in each of the classrooms, which helped, but in terms of the actual walls they did help protect students from getting the sun in their eyes. I’m sure that part of the reason the walls remained cool was because they were white. If they were black, this might have been a different story.
TentCraft: What have the students said about the tents? I’m sure they were all excited to be back to in-person learning.
Cal Coast Academy: Oh ya, the students were just elated to be back to in-person learning. I think in general that students, teachers, and families are just grateful to get back to somewhat of a “normal” learning environment. The tents have helped us preserve the feel of a classroom but having them outdoors with the side walls rolled up provides extra air flow. All of the students, teachers, and staff are wearing their masks for the entire day, and everyone seems to be grateful to just have the ability to be back to in-person learning.
TentCraft: And what about accessories? Did you bring whiteboards into the tents? Can you tell me a little more about your setup?
Cal Coast Academy: Well, like I said, these tents are incredibly sturdy. We had a very windy few days and these tents did not move. And it’s clear they are built to last, even in harsh weather. We hung up some LED lighting and mounted TVs, which serve as a digital whiteboard that the teachers can project on from their tablets. We weren’t sure at first if we would be able to mount lights or TVs to the tent, but we learned that connecting things like a TV was easy because they are so structurally sound. We did end up running an electrical conduit to the tents so we could have reliable electricity.
TentCraft: That’s great! I saw that you also ordered flooring, can you share a little more about why you needed to include a floor and how it’s working so far?
Cal Coast Academy: Ya, so we needed to include flooring to meet ADA requirements as all the classrooms need to be wheelchair accessible. Since we placed gravel underneath these tents after the electrical conduits were in place, we also knew that gravel wouldn’t meet the ADA requirements. The flooring that you provided helped not only with keeping the dust out of the classroom and potentially making it worse but also made the classroom ADA accessible. Plus, it just looks a lot nicer.
TentCraft: Great to hear all of this feedback and I’ll be sure to share this with our team! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today about your tents and how they are helping you all support your students. If you ever need anything, or have any ideas you’d like to share, please feel free to reach out to me.
When you place an order with TentCraft, you aren’t just ordering a tent. You are getting a full-service experience from the moment you reach our website to the time your product ships, and even beyond. Customer service is incredibly important to us, even if we find that our products aren’t the right fit for your needs—we can still help give you guidance and point you in the right direction. Since we are craftsmen and women, we know our products inside and out which gives us not only ample experience but also knowledge about our products, our customers, and the environment in which our products are placed.
Although we have worked with several universities and school districts, we wanted to follow-up with some of our education clients, especially as situations change daily with Covid-19 around the country. Many schools and universities are weighing the risks with resuming in-person learning, but one of the alternatives to the traditional school model has been to relocate classes outside. Learning from our clients and combining our industry knowledge, we have been able to supply custom solutions specifically addressing the needs of schools and universities. From providing lighting to heating or just simply a custom tent floor plan, we are here to help you.