What a great question! The first step in hosting any tournament is to make sure you — as a contest host/manager — have gone through the correct process of securing rightful access to the building. In my former school district, that involved a “building permit” document that was signed by the building principal, making it clear which spaces were being used, and for what period of time. Meeting with that principal and ensuring there is a mutual understanding that they will support your usage of all spaces booked, and that you will ensure all classrooms are kept clean and returned to their original condition is crucial. That way, when teachers attempt to ask that their classrooms not be used, the principal will support your request, and remind that teacher that the building and all its classrooms belong to the taxpayers of that municipality, or are governed by the board of trustees of that private school, and are vital to the livelihood of the speech and debate program at that school.
The following tactics are key to success in this endeavor:
- Emailing all faculty/staff in the building to notify them of your intent to use classrooms, including what steps you’re taking to protect those spaces.
- Establishing the rule/expectation that students may not enter a classroom unless a judge is present.
- Give judges clear expectations regarding their supervision of rooms. Tell them to NOT sit at teachers’ desks, and that if any furniture needs to be moved, to ensure that furniture is returned before that judge leaves the classroom.
- Documenting which teachers are nervous, and outlining steps to ensure all reasonable concerns are addressed, such as “caution-taping” off areas with sensitive equipment or materials; photographing arrangement of furniture; asking a volunteer parent or service club/hours student to sit in the room as a monitor when it’s unlocked/being used.
- Create alternatives for the need to write on chalkboards/white boards: sign-in sheets outside the door (which is more efficient, anyway); a paper form for Congress agendas; etc.
- Establishing a rule that contestants nor judges should unplug any device/equipment in rooms; that they are responsible for keeping devices charged.
- Email all faculty/staff after the tournament, thanking them for sharing their spaces with you, and to notify you if there were any issues. It’s a gesture of goodwill that lets them know you genuinely want to know if there were problems, so you can address them.