VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Many schools have finalized their reopening plans and in Volusia County, the district’s plan includes keeping the band playing in the midst of a pandemic with the help of specialized personal protective equipment.
DeLand High School Band Director Monica Leimer said students have been able to rehearse over the summer and that school leaders plan to purchase tools to help them continue playing through the new school year.
“I just think music education is too important not to fight for it and figure out [how] to do it and keep our students safe at the same time,” Leimer said. “It is possible.”
Temporary plastic bell covers
Last week, DeLand High School’s band hosted its band camp where, over the span of two weeks, 120 students gathered to practice “Home of the Brave,” their new show for the year, while also braving the risks that come with COVID-19.
However, while deciding what permanent PPE she wants to purchase for the new year, Leimer went to Amazon and ordered 120 plastic food coverings that come in different sizes to fit the bells of nearly all the instruments, from clarinets to trombones.
“It keeps the aerosols from coming out of the bell,” Leimer siad. “I found them through a band director Facebook group. Someone else suggested it, I looked into it and we ordered them. They aren’t very expensive, they aren’t meant to last a long time but they were perfect for the duration of band camps.”
During band camp, Leimer said the band only came to a full rehearsal with all 120 students one time and that they always played outside and at least 6 feet apart.
“They were all spread out 6 feet apart. We found a place on campus where we can have two layers, some students were upstairs some were downstairs and we played together as a full band and it was incredibly fulfilling,” she said.
She added that they never play inside, even though the auditorium could fit them all.
“I feel very, very safe,” Leimer said. “I mean, I have my own child here so, as a mother, I feel very safe.”
The Volusia County School District is working on an official document providing guidance for band, chorus and theater programs. Part of that guidance stems from several studies, including some from the National Federation of State High School Association.
One of the studies recommends social distancing of at least six feet and nine feet for certain instruments, like trombones.
Fabric bell covers and masks with slits
The NFHS studies recommend band programs use fabric and multi-layered bell covers, something Leimer said she is already in the process of purchasing.
"It will be the proper type of material and we are going to have those ordered for the entire band so everyone will have one for their instruments," Leimer said.
The studies also recommend ordering masks with slits in them, also something the district is guiding band directors to do.
“I’m really proud of what we have done as a group to find a way for band to happen for these kids. I think they need it so much,” Leimer said.