As the school year begins to pick up in northeast Ohio, so do afterschool programs. Like schools, these programs are responsible for the care and safety of their children, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maureen Eppich, founder of Jump Start Gymnastics in Beachwood; Bre Ganuelas, Marketing Coordinator and Brand Specialist at Girl Scouts of North East Ohio in Macedonia; and Courtney Laves-Mearini, owner and artistic and executive director of Cleveland City Dance in Cleveland, said they are monitoring the current situation to provide a fun and safe experience for their children.
Jump Start begins its after-school program on August 22. Because there are so many unknowns with the rising number of cases and the Delta variant, Eppich said they are continuing with all of the pandemic safety and sanitization protocols they have already followed.
“We are still doing temperature checks, we are still washing our hands as soon as we enter, staff are fully masked, even if vaccinated, and children are masked,” Eppich said. “Anyone who enters the facility is always masked for their protection, as well as for protection against anyone who might be an excretor that we know nothing about. It’s also for the protection of children, because as you know, not everyone respects the honor system. We did this all summer. It works well. We had a nice increase in registrations. But we haven’t backed down on any of the security protocols.
Eppich credits these protocols for not having any type of outbreak or incidence of COVID-19.
Cleveland City Dance is following similar protocols, in addition to limiting classes to eight students instead of the usual 10 or 12.
Laves-Mearini said Cleveland City Dance will not relax protocols. Some performances may be reduced in some way, such as not having a full audience. Rather than performing in schools last year as they normally do, the dance academy filmed her performance and then sent it to schools for them to watch. Next, it hosted a virtual live Q&A forum.
“So we kind of set ourselves up that, if we have to maintain social distancing and all the other protocols that we put in place from last summer, we can continue to do that even if we would like bring us closer to what it was before the pandemic,” Laves-Mearini said. “We are optimistic, but we are also very cautious. At this point, we don’t see things where we think we can relax, especially because most of our children are under the age to get vaccinated. »
Ganuelas said Girl Scouts is looking to make this year as normal as possible.
“If the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) mandates masks, then we will change our policy,” Ganuelas said. “It’s also how comfortable the girls are. As a rule, this is not always the case, but the troops are usually from the same school. So they stray from what the school recommends.
Amid all of these protocols and changes, Eppich said she has been welcomed by many parents.
“We never gave up on the mask policy, even when the mandate was gone,” Eppich said. “Parents, I would say the vast majority of them said ‘thank you’. They were very happy because they understood what they were facing, because the majority of our clientele cannot be vaccinated. Even if the kids don’t get sicker or show symptoms, it’s still very real. We don’t want those kids bringing home anyone who might be compromised.
Ms Laves-Mearini said it is very important that her students feel safe.
“If they don’t feel safe and comfortable, I don’t feel safe and comfortable,” Laves-Mearini said. “The Dance School is a second home for many of our students. It was the first place where many of our students were able to see each other face to face, because the school was still very virtual. It is therefore a haven of peace for them. And we want to make sure that there remains a haven of peace, a second home for them, and that their parents can be sure that we will do the right thing for their children.