The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March forced East Boston’s popular after school programs to close as the city, state and nation went into isolation in order to stem the spread of the virus.
Agencies like the East Boston Social Centers (EBSC), the Salesian Boys & Girls Club, the East Boston YMCA and Piers Park Sailing Center all had to put programs on hold until the state figured out its phased COVID reopening process and what was safe to open during each phase.
With the state’s Phase II reopening plan in full swing, little by little life is starting to return to what is now being called the ‘new normal’.
While some normalcy has returned, there are still restrictions, and youth program providers in Eastie are cautiously trying to figure out how to move forward with summer programs and camps.
“We are working to reopen in early July,” said EBSC’s Executive Director Justin Pasquariello. “The state is now requiring that we have no more than 10 children per classroom. Due to some recent renovations, we have some extra space so we are increasing the number of classrooms versus a usual year. Even with that, however, we will only be able to serve 100 children versus 159 in a typical school year program, and sometimes more in the summer. As of now, we believe this means we won’t have any open enrollment spaces–as those already enrolled in our school-age program have priority. However, if that changes, we will let people know.”
Over at the YMCA, Executive Director Joe Gaeta said the Eastie Y still plans on running “in person” summer camp but with a dramatically smaller amount of youth this summer due to new state guidelines.
“We usually run a 230 youth camp but can only do 60 this summer to ensure safety,” said Gaeta. “We filled all our spots within a day, so at this time we do not have any availability. We have had to make huge modifications in our daily schedule, activities we can do and implementing increased cleaning/social distancing measures. We want to make sure our staff and children are safe so we will be going above and beyond state protocol.”
Gaeta said the Eastie Y is used to these protocols given the Y has been safely running emergency child care throughout the pandemic and shutdown.
“We also will not be able to run our dual language camp out of the Umana,” he said. “For those who can’t get a spot in “in person” camp or don’t want to send their child to camp we have a new on-line program called Y CAMPish.”
Gaeta said Y CAMPish is a virtual camp that has a weekly subscription service and is full of awesome activities, advanced interaction and virtual field trips.
“You can find more info at https://ycampish.org,” said Gaeta. “We will still be hosting summer youth employment at the Y through our partner organizations for teens. We will also continue meal service to the community though the summer at both Bremen and Ashley Street locations.
Over at the Boys & Girls Club on Byron Street, Executive Director Mike Triant said the Salesians are running an eight week camp program.
“The big change for us is that we are not capable of allowing parents to register for individual weeks,” said Triant. “The registration fee is $1,000 and that gets their child 8 weeks of camp, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. This was done to limit group sizes and number of kids that others are exposed to. All groups will consist of 12 or fewer campers and staff. Each group will remain together all summer for all activities. Each group will have all of their own supplies and we will have a full time nurse on staff. We also have a COVID response plan which includes, temp checks and a brief questionnaire upon arrival, hand washing/sanitizing schedule as well as a disinfecting schedule “
Camp at the Boys & Girls Club begins June 29 and ends on August 21.
PPSC Executive Director Alex DeFronzo said the sailing center will hold its three major programs, Harbor Explorers, Science of Sailing, as well as the Future Leaders program in person this summer.
However, all programs are at a significantly reduced capacity and have been split into half-day sessions instead of the usual full day program.
“We have reduced enrollment from a typical summer of 1,900 youth to only 360, about 19 percent of our capacity,” said DeFronzo. “All of the program slots are full and we do not have a wait list this year because of the reduced capacity available. Priority for enrollment was given to children from Logan-impacted communities, children from low-income households, and children with disabilities.”
DeFronzo said students will be in a 1:2 instructor to student ratio on sailboats and 1:1 on kayaks.
“Each child will have an assigned life jacket which they will use for the duration of their session,” he said. “Students will work with the same small team of staff throughout the session. Everyone will be required to wear masks at all times, families will be required to attest to their health before arriving at Piers Park, and student temperature checks will be recorded daily.”
Staff will be cleaning and disinfecting boats, tillers, paddles, lines, gangway railings, and more every morning, afternoon, and evening.
“Unfortunately, we will not have our usual on-site lunch program available this summer,” said DeFronzo. “It is going to be an unusual summer but we are glad to offer some in-person programming to improve student outcomes in socialization and education.”