With the final days of summer quickly approaching and a spell of colder weather settling in across the country, many school districts are facing a number of challenges as they consider returning to campus. Despite the associated risks to in-person classes with the current state of the covid 19 pandemic, many administrators, educators, and parents are advocating for outdoor learning environments. The idea of an outdoor classroom and space for outdoor cafeteria overflow would help limit the amount of time students spend in an enclosed space, which the CDC is currently recommending that we limit indoor gatherings to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. In order to help keep both students and educators safe many schools, universities, and administrators are turning to the implementation of school tents to serve as an outdoor classroom space.
This year's return to school is not only going to look a lot different than previous years, but also feel different as students and educators navigate a socially distanced campus. Many schools and universities, such as Georgetown College have considered using tents for more than just classroom settings, such as outdoor cafeterias and dining halls. In addition to classroom tents, many schools and universities are also utilizing their outdoor spaces for onsite screening, isolation tents, and vaccination clinics. According to an article published by The New York Times, Linsey Marr, an engineering professor and aerosol scientist at Virginia Tech, says, "I think outdoors is so much better than indoors in almost all cases. There's so much dilution that happens outdoors." Marr states that "the risk is very low" in an outdoor setting even in a light wind which will quickly dilute the virus.
With a better understanding of the dilution of airborne covid 19 particles, scientists and educators are urging school officials and districts to consider investing in open-air classrooms. In a recently written position statement by the Inside-Outside educational advisory group, they state, "using outdoor learning spaces offers a reduced risk of virus transmission and provides positive mental health and academic learning benefits." Although nature-based or outdoor learning environments are not new to education, they certainly present advantageous circumstances during the Covid-19 pandemic, especially in allowing for students to still engage in coursework with their peers, in-person. Inside-Outside advocates for this shift in our education systems, stating "now is the time to plan for the design of outdoor learning spaces...there are numerous resources to support classroom teachers as they move their indoor routines outside." Although the lowest risk for both educators and students would be to continue with remote learning, it is clear that the impacts socially, economically, and developmentally speaking on students is too great.
What is a “Medium Risk” Situation?
Rather, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests school officials, educators, students, and parents opt for a "medium risk” situation. The CDC defines a "medium risk" situation as having in-person classes, activities, and events that are held in small groups. Each group would stay together, with the same teacher, and would not mix with other groups across campus for the entirety of the semester. In addition, students would practice social distancing, staying at least 6 feet away from each other and refrain from sharing school supplies and resources. The "medium risk" situation may not be the most ideal learning environment, however, going entirely virtual where students are presented with additional challenges, such as distracting home environments, a lack of access to technology and reliable internet, and proper nutrition, presents not only social equality concerns but hurdles to obtain an equitable education in a less-than-ideal situation.
How Frame Tents Can Be Used for Outdoor Classrooms
Despite the obstacles presented, many teachers, parents, and school officials have been able to help mitigate the risks of holding face-to-face classes by shifting their classrooms to outdoor learning environments and balancing the benefits of classroom learning with strict social distancing practices in place. The “medium risk” situation will require school officials and teachers to spread out students in classrooms, however, the challenge in this situation is that many school districts and classrooms are not setup to accommodate a smaller class size that is more spread out. Here are a few examples of how tents can be used during the covid 19 pandemic:
- •Outdoor learning environments and open-air classrooms
- • Dining halls and outside cafeteria space
- • Pre-screening and registration
- • Quarantine quarters or mobile infirmary
- • Physical education and covered art/music space
- • Teacher lounges and administrative offices
- • Socially distanced meeting space for students, teachers, and parents
Investing in a custom tent would alleviate some of the stress placed on school districts and universities while also providing many benefits that will outlast pandemic-related needs. A few examples of school tent use post-pandemic:
- •Mobile structures for athletics and sports teams
- • Temporary school space during construction or higher enrollment periods
- • Outdoor events and community engagement
- • Fundraising and outreach promotion
As a 100% USA manufacturer, TentCraft was uniquely positioned to respond to the needs of our communities by offering our support during the covid 19 pandemic through resources, custom structures, and years of expertise. When Georgetown College reached out to us, they were concerned about a safe return to campus, knowing that students have become accustomed to busy dining halls and bustling school buildings. However, Dr. Jonathan Sands Wise, Vice President of Enrollment Management and Associate Professor of Philosophy wanted to find a way to preserve the communal feel of Georgetown College’s campus and adhere to safe social distancing measures. With this in mind, Georgetown College acquired two 20x40 X-Series frame tents.
Dr. Jonathan Sands Wise shared these photos and feedback with us:
The tents have worked great for our overflow eating area and for outdoor classroom space. They are secure, help provide shade and shelter from the rain, and they look great on our campus. We get lots of compliments on them and they have even appeared in some local news stories!
Our frame tents are able to withstand inclement weather and are intended for longer-term use. However, in some circumstances, schools have opted for pop-up style tents and canopies, which are lighter and more easily transported than frame tents. In both frame tent and pop-up tent solutions, we can provide LED lighting and halogen heating elements to best prepare for learning environments in varying weather conditions.
Evidence from the CDC, as well as numerous other academic journals, states that “schools are an important part of the infrastructure of our communities, as they provide safe, supportive learning environments for students, employ teachers and other staff, and enable parents, guardians, and caregivers to work.” Schools provide so much in terms of critical services that help meet the needs of families and children, especially those who are disadvantaged by creating a safe environment for learning, fulfilling nutritional needs, and facilitating access to technology and physical activity. With the mass school closures across America due to the covid 19 pandemic, many students’ education was disrupted from the benefits of in-person instruction as well critical services, which has. Much larger negative individual and societal ramifications. It is clear that the reopening of schools must be a priority for education and our communities, however, we have been given the opportunity to reevaluate and invest in the education, well-being, and future of America’s greatest assets—our children and students—while taking every precaution to protect students, teacher, staff, and all their families.