As the pandemic stretches into month eight, the Recreation Department is adjusting programming to support the community into the fall season and beyond.
“When COVID-19 raised its ugly head, everything stopped. We were in the middle of spring programs in March and everything kind of shut down,” said Director of Recreation Peter Centola.
Amid COVID-19, Recreation has been tasked with keeping up with constantly changing state rules and regulations, and finding ways to enforce social distancing precautions in addition to managing the extra costs associated with sanitizing while keeping programs affordable. Despite challenges, Recreation leaders still managed to successfully run summer programs including the Pequossette program, Parks Adventure program, Pre-K Outdoor Sports, Youth Tennis and adult Pickleball and Tennis classes.
“One of the challenges we faced was trying to determine how we can continue to serve the community and offer programs safely. We took the ball and ran with it,” said Ernie Thebado, assistant recreation director. “Due to safety regulations, we couldn’t have 30 kids in a class, so instead we broke it up into classes with 15 kids each.”
All summer programs ran in accordance with COVID-19 polices and procedures which included operating outdoors, wearing face masks, social distancing guidelines in place from drop-off to pick-up, daily disinfecting procedures as well as filling out a daily health survey prior to admission to the program.
“We hold regular calls with recreation directors from across the MetroWest region to find out what other communities are doing and brainstorm what we can do; and how we can modify programs in accordance with State Health Department regulations,” said Centola.
The same policies and procedures are still in place for fall programming, which are strictly being run outdoors. In the event of inclement weather, programming is canceled for the day. After school sports programming will continue to take place at Arsenal Park, Pre-K Outdoor Sports at Victory Turf Field and Youth Tennis at Mary Shea Courts.
“As we look ahead to the winter, we may be facing some difficulties when it comes to space. We are looking at facilities,” said Thebado. “We’re looking at different avenues for outdoor winter activities like snow shoeing and cross country skiing.”
For more information on programs offered by the Watertown Recreation Department, visit http://www.recreation.watertown-ma.gov.
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