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How to Pitch Your Event Tent to NYSED

NYSED has established an expedited review process for districts looking to use temporary event tents for school ceremonies or events.

As state and local guidelines continue to evolve, school districts are managing how to host typical events on campus such as prom, graduation, and various ceremonies while adhering to the current COVID-19 guidelines. A seemingly simple solution to hosting such events is to rent large temporary event tents for an outdoor venue in order to space the occupants sufficiently. Although this rental and installation of the tents would seem simple and straightforward, there are several required steps that districts need to be aware of prior to putting stakes in the ground.

The New York State Education Department (NYSED) has released several documents outlining the proper steps that must be followed in order for a district to use these temporary event spaces. NYSED is the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) for all NYS public school districts as well as the permitting party for any type of project a district intends to do. For this reason, proper documentation is required to be submitted to NYSED for their review and approval to ensure that occupants will be safe in using outdoor tented spaces. The very first step a district will need to take is submitting a Letter of Intent (LOI) form to NYSED for each facility in order to establish a building/project number with the State Education Department (SED). Once this project number is established, the following documents are required:

Site Plan Drawing

First, the district’s architect/engineer should assess the intended location of the tent installation in conformance with the NYSED Facilities Planning Manual guidelines and the current International Fire Code for clearances around the tent. This investigation must be documented in a scaled site plan drawing indicating the intended installation location, clearances from the tent to any adjacent structure, as well as indicating the maximum occupancy, egress routes, and travel distances.

Request for Approval of Use of a Facility

Along with this stamped drawing, the district will be required to submit the NYSED’s Request for Approval of Use of a Facility (FP-AU) form that indicates the type of facility to be utilized, as well as its intended use/activity, the maximum number of occupants, and any other documents that will be required for submission. This form shall be signed by the Superintendent of Schools and submitted with the package of required documentation.

Along with a signed FP-AU form, the Superintendent will also be required to provide a certification letter of the approval of the temporary tent lease agreement indicating that the intended use shall conform to all requirements and guidelines provided.

SEQRA Resolution

The district’s Board of Education shall establish and approve a SEQRA Resolution in relation to the installation and use of the intended temporary facility. The Resolution shall be conscious of the size and installation method of the tent, whether the tent perimeter will be open or will have fabric side panels, and the intended duration of installation and use. The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) shall review and approve the SEQRA memo/resolution in addition to the BOE establishing and approving the resolution. Once approved by the Board, the BOE meetings shall be signed and certified by the District Clerk and provided in the submission documents.

Miscellaneous Documentation

Dependent upon the type of facility that is intended for use, the district may be required to submit documentation of certified fire resistant materials used in the tent and conformance to NFPA testing methods, asbestos free materials certification, as well as a local Fire Inspection Report of the facility following the installation.

Once all of these documents have been compiled, the architect/engineer of record or the district may submit the package directly to NYSED Facilities Planning via email for their expedited review and approval. The submission shall be clearly marked with “COVID-19 REOPENING” in order to ensure an expedited review of the project in lieu of entering the queue of standard capital projects that districts are accustomed to. This process and timeline should be closely monitored in order to ensure that approval is given from NYSED prior to the intended installation and event date.