How a School District Expanded the Cafeteria Outside With Tents

Andrew Dodson /// 03/03/2022

In sunny California, students in the Lawndale Elementary School District have always had the option of eating their lunch outdoors thanks to a few permanent shade structures at each school building.

But as COVID-19 cases soared across the country, the district decided one way to slow the spread was to expand outdoor eating capacity at all schools. Outdoor dining, after all, is safer than indoor because it allows students to sit further apart and there’s significantly more ventilation.

Expanding the cafeteria outdoors, though, wasn’t as easy as telling students to simply eat outside. The district needed more shade for students — especially for those hot days in Los Angeles. A tent was the logical choice.

The district’s requirements were straightforward: The tent needed to be durable, remain installed for an entire school year, and provide students with adequate shade during lunch. The ability to brand the canopy with the district’s logo would be a bonus.

After researching options, the district contacted TentCraft to inquire about frame tents and ultimately invested in our X-Series lineup. Across nine locations — seven elementary schools and two middle schools — district officials purchased 10 20’x30’ X-Series tents and two 20’x40’ tents in the same series.

"TentCraft made it quick and easy for us to respond to the ongoing needs brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing us to provide a safer option for our students," said Dr. Daniel Urrutia, the District's director of safety and communications.

A cafeteria overflow tent for the Lawndale Elementary School District.

And yes, TentCraft custom-printed the white canopy with the district’s logo on each tent.

The X-Series is a popular option for school districts because of its easy-to-install design. No tools are needed thanks to snap-button connectors, and every piece of hardware is color-coded to ensure proper assembly. Lawndale officials said it didn’t take long for their maintenance crew to get the hang of installation and they can now tackle it quickly.

“The most challenging consideration was ensuring the tents were positioned properly and well-secured,” said Jorge Ramirez, the district’s director of maintenance and operations.

The district uses water barrels to ballast the tents, which are installed on concrete and asphalt surfaces.

Lunch time is a fun time in the Lawndale Elementary School District.

In addition to the tents, the district also invested in new outdoor furniture that can be left out year-round.

The district perfected its cafeteria overflow strategy during the peak of the pandemic. Students flow through the cafeteria service line and then exit through a door to eat outdoors. When lunch is done, students remove their trash to designated bins, and custodians and supervision staff tidy up before the next lunch period.

A handful of schools have trusted TentCraft for cafeteria overflow and outdoor classroom tents since the pandemic hit. For example, Cal Coast Academy in San Diego set up multiple frame tents for outdoor classrooms.

While the tents at Lawndale will continue to be used for cafeteria overflow, the district has other applications in mind, including for graduation ceremonies, classroom space, and additional shade for physical education classes on extra-warm days.

TentCraft Can Help Your School District

Are you searching for a heavy-duty solution for either quick-deploy or semi-permanent structures for your school district? The experts at TentCraft can help you develop a custom solution that fits your school’s requirements and budget. Request a quote today.

About TentCraft

We’re more than just custom pop up tents — TentCraft is a premium fabricator of all things experiential marketing and outdoor advertising. If it combines metal, fabric and print our team of skilled craftsmen can transform any napkin sketch or wild idea into a fully realized project. Serving the biggest brands on the planet as well as your local High School, if you want the perfect blend of quality and American craftsmanship, we’ve got you covered.