Montessori Follows [MDH guidance for safety of] The Child and Says "No" to MN State Fair in 2021
This letter was sent to the State Fair June 23, 2021. Since, the Delta Variant of COVID-19 has initiated a dangerous wave of outbreaks, including increased impacts to those who are vaccinated and children. Despite this, the positivity rate passing 5%, and the total number of COVID-19 cases in MN children under 15 far exceeding that of adults over 70, the MN State Fair still has not implemented changes to its (lack of) safety protocols summarized in its letter sent to exhibitors June 14. The response MNMN received to the letter below was:
"if the Fair regarded this request from every partner who has asked, there would be no exhibits at this year's Fair."
Good Day State Fair Partners.
Please route this communication to whom it may concern to hear our concern and address our question. We have sent this communication to the only contacts we have with the State Fair and realize it may need to reach others.
We write to inquire about an option to retain our space that we have occupied for many years during this year of a continued global pandemic (Spaces 50 and 51 - two 10x10 adjacent spaces used as on exhibit in the Education Building). We would appreciate the opportunity to pay our fees for our exhibit space, even though the pandemic eliminates our ability to host our exhibit this year. In the exhibit space, we would hang a banner with a photo of our normal exhibit informing guests that we will be back next year.
We are not able to safely offer guests our interactive classroom exhibit while a deadly infectious disease is prevalent. Our exhibit is an interactive classroom serving infants through adolescents, primarily used by toddlers, preschoolers, and elementary aged children. In our exhibit, children interact with adults and children in very close proximity (less than one foot). They also interact with physical materials persistently. In a standard year, our volunteers spend a majority of their time sanitizing objects after visitors leave to ensure the safety of all visitors.
In 2020, nearly 200 schools in MN operated with the Montessori method that is demonstrated in our exhibit. From this we have learned the procedures that must be implemented to provide safety from the spread of COVID-19. These procedures are not able to be implemented in our State Fair exhibit, especially given the fair has not implemented capacity management or masking within buildings. As such, in a year of highly-contagious and deadly infectious disease, we cannot offer a sufficiently safe experience for our guests. This is a particular concern given that the exhibit is indoors, is a space that does not allow distancing, and serves populations that cannot yet be vaccinated against the deadly affects of COVID-19.
We love the fair. We are loyal to our service to MN State Fair goers. The majority of our budget goes to offering this exhibit each year. Over 100 Montessori teachers volunteer each year to bring the magic of Montessori to the Education Building at the State Fair. We excited offer over 1,000 hours of service to bring the experience to life each year. We are motivated and inspired by the fun education children experience while visiting our exhibit right before school begins. We are humbled by the parents’ awe of their children spending an hour doing school work at our exhibit, begging not to leave while fair rides are a stones-throw away. We have watched the sparkle in the eyes of a child who did not know they could do “Long Division”, as they express now being excited for school to begin “next week”. We understand we offer one of the very few spaces that serve families and very young children, and know our recurring visitors refer to us as a “respite” and a “haven” for their family at the fair. Given the overwhelming demand for our space, we continue to wait for the opportunity to expand our spaces at the fair, when the opening arises.
We are committed to the partnership we have with the Minnesota State Fair in service to fair goers. We missed them last year, and it pains us to miss them this again year. We are confident that vaccines available for the children we serve will allow us to safely serve them next year. This year, ethically, we must regard the lives and health of our children beyond our own desires for a return to normalcy. We cannot host our interactive classroom exhibit.
Understanding the MN State Fair’s concern for its financial well-being, we are willing to pay our full fee and to pay to print a banner explaining to guests that we will be back next year and set it up during the set up day before the fair opens. We welcome your review and approval of the banner before printing. When we receive your response approving this approach to our exhibit this year, we will use the new online system to pay our fees. If our request is not approved, we will be painfully forced to surrender our spaces and hope for space to be available and allocated to us in future years.
We are happy to answer any questions and have conversation to discuss this further, if necessary.