Private School Confronts COVID with Temporary Dining Hall Expansion


When the pandemic threatened campus life and daily operations at a northeast private boarding school, they called on Sunbelt Rentals. The school needed an innovative space solution to help them meet safety protocols so they could remain open for the school year.

This independent secondary school in Massachusetts is home to both day and boarding students. Serious obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic tasked the school with timely deadlines — failure to pivot would mean closing the facilities to students and faculty.

The Challenge

With the upcoming winter and no sign the pandemic would subside by the spring semester, this institution needed to find a structurally-sound offering to continue the school year. Its location surrounding walkways and buildings required a seamless flow to the existing grounds. This structure called for enough room for students and staff to socially distance themselves while connecting to the existing hall. The additional coverage needed to shelter students through the heavy winter that typically sees 40+ inches of snow and temperatures well below freezing.

The client’s structure needed:


9,000+ Square Feet


Social-Distancing Adherence






Insulated Walkway


Expedited Installation

Refrigerated Storage Icon

Ability to Shed Snow

The Solution

Sunbelt Rentals installed a 9,600 square-foot Mahaffey Tension Series™ (MTS™). Known for its peaked arch profile, the MTS™ clear span tent is uniquely suited for snow country. The temporary dining hall was customized with raised and finished flooring, HVAC system and interior lighting. Entry doors attached through a corridor to the existing building kept students and faculty sheltered and provided the school with enough space to serve meals while adhering to social distancing protocol.

Sunbelt Rentals' ability to offer unique packages and plotting to adapt to existing grounds allowed this school to keep the campus fully operational. Students and staff are able to continue with daily meals and a sense of normalcy for the remaining school year. Sunbelt Rentals worked with the client to determine the area, space capacity and logistics. Sunbelt Rentals installed the structure in just 20 days — meeting the school’s fast turnaround requirements and ensuring the solution would be in place before students returned from winter break.

Mahaffey’s solution included the following features:

  • 9,600 Square Feet Mahaffey Tension Series™ (MTS™)
  • Accommodations for 3000+ w/ Social Distancing
  • Quick Installation
  • Heating System
  • High Wind-Load and Ability to Shed Snow


The Result


The Sunbelt Rentals team provided seamless, turnkey project management, delivered timely completion and exceeded expectations. The existing layouts of the grounds created a challenge but Sunbelt Rentals' experienced crew was able to tie the clear span structure into the existing building creating an ideal layout. Delivering the solution within 6 weeks of order was a key requirement for this project.

Mahaffey_Team-Member_Joe-Berger2Sunbelt Rentals Project Manager Joe Berger said the turnaround provided by Sunbelt Rentals alleviated potential disruption to the institution and its daily operations. The ability to work with the customer while understanding the need and implementing the final clear span structure as promised is important to him and his team.


The Takeaways

Temporary dining halls deliver many benefits. These climate-controlled, clear span facilities provide comfortable accommodations for 50 to 3,000+ people. On-site planning for turnaround personnel, quick installation, relocation and equipment such as seating, lighting, HVAC, doors and power are a few of the features offered.

Sunbelt Rentals teams are prepared to construct these structures for campuses and military bases around the country. If you are searching for a temporary dining facility, Sunbelt Rentals has the immediately-available inventory, 24/7 dispatch and expert team to meet your needs.

For more information about custom solutions by Sunbelt Rentals click the button below to speak with one of our experts.

Interested in learning more about Sunbelt Rentals' custom solutions? Simply click on the button below to speak with one of our experts.

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Topics: Clearspan Fabric Structure Lunch and Break Tent Schools and Universities