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Not a party tent, but music class

By Celeste McNeil; photo courtesy of RHMS

Photo of Rocky Heights Middle School music class

Rocky Heights Middle School students social distance themselves in outdoor tents for music class.

You may have noticed the huge white tents outside at Rocky Heights Middle School (RHMS) and Rock Canyon High School and wondered why they are there. Deanna Thaler, choir director at RHMS has the answer, “We are using a tent this year to help combat potential spread of the coronavirus in our performing arts classes, mainly choir and band,” she stated.

The increase of aerosol and droplets generated by singing and playing woodwind and brass instruments has canceled some performing arts programs until further notice in many areas of the country. According to Thaler, Douglas County School District wants to keep the arts alive in the schools; if they can safely do so. Over the summer, district music teachers began discussing ongoing research being done at the University of Colorado Boulder, with the aim of allowing students to keep the music alive.

“We really wanted to allow our students to keep singing and playing instruments in a time when they really need normalcy and the elements of humanity that music can help provide. But we also wanted to make sure that we are doing it in a safe way,” Thaler stated.

The research is showing that quicker dispersion of aerosols happens during outside practice and rehearsals, thus increasing safety for everyone participating. The standard six feet physical distancing and mask requirements are also important safety measures implemented in the tented classes. Instruments are masked using bell covers as well. Choir and band classes are held outside every other period to allow time for air inside the classrooms a chance to “air out” with the help of extra air purifiers.

Tent applications were available to all secondary schools in the district and paid for through the CARES ACT education funding. The tents provide basic protection from the ever-changing elements and will be used as much as possible during this school year. Thaler said it’s a little cumbersome to haul the required equipment such as music stands, keyboard, and amplifier, in and out all day, but the overall response has been positive. “I think the kids really enjoy being outside and singing in a different environment. I really enjoy it too!”



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