When Vancouver Parks and Recreation staff announced they were opening their doors for after-school activities, they knew families would jump at the chance. They didn’t know quite how high demand would be.
“We filled within 15 minutes,” said Stacey Allington, the department’s recreation specialist.
The city launched free after-school services for small groups of students this month, providing an outlet for masked, socially distanced children to burn off energy — and give their parents a break from their children being stuck at home.
Marshall and Firstenburg community centers are opening their doors to children ages 6 through 12 for two hours every weekday. About 32 children are able to attend each center, which in turn splits its children into smaller groups to keep them safe.
Allington said from day one, it was obvious kids were happy to be there.
“You can see the smiles through their masks,” she said.
Schools are still closed for in-person learning. Clark County’s COVID-19 transmission rate at last report was 95.6 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period, according to data released by Clark County Public Health on Oct. 5. State health officials recommend schools in counties with a transmission rate higher than 75 cases per 100,000 residents over a two-week period remain closed for in-person instruction.
However, child care services may operate with daily health screenings, small group sizes and regular cleaning.
In a large gymnasium at Firstenburg Community Center on Thursday, half a dozen 6- and 7-year-olds squealed as they hurtled across the floor on scooter boards.
Among them was 6-year-old Clara Sellers, a Grass Valley Elementary School student. She scooted along with a new friend, giggling as other students hurtled past them.
Remote learning hasn’t been all fun and games for students like Clara.
“I miss my friends,” she said.
Firstenburg center director Angela Brosius, however, is optimistic that giving children a chance to socialize and work out pent-up energy will help them feel happier and healthier.
“Parents are going to see a difference when their kids get in the car,” she said.
At the other end of the community center, 10-year-old Mason Johnson and 12-year-old Alex Schmidt were locked in a game of pingpong, laughing and chasing after the ball as they missed.
Mason admits he’s been having a hard time focusing on his virtual classes at Ellsworth Elementary School. This is a welcome break.
“I met him,” he said, gesturing at Alex. “And have someone to play with.”