FRC Teams removed from high-schools due to COVID-19 space constraints

Social distancing requirements are pressing schools for space. I’ve recently learned that the school district plans to remove robotics team from the high schools. It has setup temporary modules behind an elementary school on the other side of town.

Unfortunately these temporary modules have no running water, no 220v electrical, and floors that don’t support our mill. When we asked about using the restrooms inside the elementary, we were told no; we’d need to rent porta-potties. We typically meet at night, so imagine an FRC team and 3 FTC teams using an unlit porta-potty at night in the dead of winter in the middle of a pandemic. The room size and ceiling height would make testing a robot impossible (Testing outside in February is not an option in the pacific northwest).

Are other FRC teams facings similar issues?

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Frank,
in Hawaii there are several schools already that are cutting teacher positions and/or robotics programs due to a policy of no FT or travel during the Fall 2020 semester (hopefully it changes). Because decisions for faculty/staff, facilities, and programs have to be made prior to the school year, they have just decided to cancel it all-together.
Social distancing is a challenge for programs like Robotics. How will schools deal with it and address how its supposed to look like at competitions?
On another note, some of our historically richer private schools are now making major cutbacks because the enrollment for the upcoming school year has dropped significantly.
Many of the Hawaii private schools fall into the 20-28k range/year for tuition, thus having to cut programs and staff.
With a record unemployment rate in Hawaii at around 30% right now, many parents can no longer afford to send kids to private schools and the sponsorships that those schools use to subsidize tuition costs are down.
Very sad situation altogether.

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Our team is waiting till we can get in the lab to either work on it in the lab with rules to protect us from COVID 19 or take as much parts and such as possible to one of our members homes and have them build it while our others members communicate with them over video call or a few go over to work on it together. We are a relatively small team so it just works for us

Very sorry. We will be hearing more of these stories. Right now it looks like my school’s engineering department and the team are secure for the year but that may change, and quickly. We need to all try our damnedest to provide our schools and communities maximum value and support; not for our survival but because that’s why we exist in the first place.

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This is my greatest concern heading into the next number of seasons. Sustainability of existing teams MUST BE PARAMOUNT for all FIRST organizations. Sadly, we see little to no information coming out from said orgs.

I am severely disappointed with local leadership when it comes to this. It seems they are too concerned with other things.

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There are plenty of things to be frustrated with FIRST HQ about when it comes to team sustainability, but blaming them for school districts attempting to cope with a worldwide pandemic is not one of them.

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I’d hate to be in position of authority now in a school district, FIRST, VEX and other State Robotics organizations. Tough to make decisions on a bunch of what if scenarios.

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Is it possible for districs for whom this is a pressing issue to propose what we do?

Our space is a science lab that technically we can o ly access after school. We have a closet and rolling carts for our equipment. We roll or all out when we need it and at theend of every meeting, we put it all away.

This is a lot of extra work, but the only way we were able to have a program.

I sau technically, because for the past two years, the chemistry teacher whose classroom we share is also a lead mentor. So, during build season we tend to leave stuff out.

We do have a large cabinet in the room as well.

This could mimize the COVID-related space issue.

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Here in California, the only thing my school administration has told me is that they can’t tell me anything about the 2020-2021 school year. We’ve been asked to prepare for partial or full distance learning, and warned that sports and activities may be greatly affected.

So, be thankful if your school district is at least being proactive and being public. Mine holds to the philosophy that its better to keep plans secret until the last minute, rather than share hopeful plans early that may need to be changed later.

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Yeah, can’t imagine what though.

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Many Michigan teams have survived on the largesse of state grants from First In Michigan, supplied by grants from the state itself from the budget. The state has already come out and said they are going to have a huge budget deficit this year because of the economy. That will probably be true for the next couple years - the experts are predicting 7 years till unemployment rebounds fully.

While the governor has pledged that school funding will not be cut to balance the budget, I can certainly see grants for extra-curricular activities getting the axe. Over the years, our sponsorship money has slowly declined, in part because we’ve started a number of teams in the neighboring communities. I hope we all make it through this unscathed.

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I can’t say much for my FRC team, as we are a community team and it is up to the mentors to determine when and how to proceed. But as an FLL mentor we’re facing similar issues on a shorter time frame and with no replay as a cushion. There’s still a lot of unknowns, but it is looking somewhat promising. We’re a community team who is “sponsored” by a school who provides us a space to work. Right now they’re still ironing out guidelines for potential school reopening, but the current state guidelines allow for 10 people indoors socially distanced. With 7 students and 3 mentors, we can fulfill those requirements and the school has been open to the idea of us meeting assuming guidelines don’t change. That doesn’t necessarily mean we will be any time soon, but with all the things that are limiting our activity this year that hopefully the school will not be one of them.

The nice thing about FLL is that you can literally fund the team in a weekend of work. A single small sponsor can do it. A can drive at our local Kroger right in front of the recycling point netted us $500 some dollars a couple years back when the school wasn’t really supporting us. That was enough to get the kit, build our own table, and get team shirts. Then you can just work in someone’s garage or basement.

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We are scheduled to have a meeting with the District Office sometime in the latter part of July to “discuss what our robotics team will entail for the fall”.
This is rather ominous. However, we only have 2 FRC teams in the district. One team meets at our main sponsor’s facility while the other meets on a campus.
I believe that they are going to ask for the preparations and precautions we have determined to implement during our meetings. And then, the district will then inform us of their guidelines (which will probably be completely different than anything developed by the two teams).

Forgive me for asking this, but is your district trying to dissolve the teams?

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As I read it, they are trying to fulfill their primary mission as a school district - to educate students in a safe manner. They have determined they need larger spaces to spread the students out to do that, and are looking at all areas of the buildings.

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Hey Gary - this is just a thought. School sports based on gym class would initially appear to be a huge vector of Covid. People working hard playing basketball / football / dodgeball or even just doing laps in the gym would seem to be an enormous risk.

A much larger risk than having a socially distanced robotics team working there.

I wonder if that might be an avenue to pursue for many robotics teams - many of the activities that take place in gyms simply aren’t a good idea right and won’t be in the near future.

The same could be argued for band. Sitting in an enclosed area blowing air into instruments that disperse them would seem to be a very-very-bad-idea™.

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I don’t disagree. But the OP mentioned nothing about sports teams or gym or music classes. Those may be going away as well, particularly if there is no safe way to conduct them.

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We’re in the same state (Oregon) as OP. The V1 document for the school planning is here: https://www.oregon.gov/ode/students-and-family/healthsafety/Pages/Planning-for-the-2020-21-School-Year.aspx

Each district is to build a plan based on local conditions from requirements/recommendations in the guide and submit for state approval by August 15. I’ve only skimmed it, but there are potentially lots of restrictions on any team/club that needs to meet hands-on or travel to competitions.
Counties are being reopened in phases but we are still locked out of the school campus, including the athletic fields.

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