For the first time in nearly three months, the Early Childhood Centers of the Sabes and St. Paul JCCs started welcoming children back to the building. That happy occurrence began a deliberate, phased reopening of the two JCCs that will – if everything goes well – take place over the next month.
Michael Waldman, the CEO of the St. Paul and Sabes JCCs, said that each ECC opened at less than 50 percent capacity – about 60 children at each facility.
“We were able to accommodate everyone who wanted to come back and stay within the guidelines we’d have to implement,” Waldman said. Part of the pre-opening conversation was prioritizing the children whose parents are deemed essential workers, but they were able to accommodate the number of children they could without going to that step.
The next phase is the opening of the fitness centers for working out on June 24. The JCCs websites have included a detailed plan of what will be available in each phase, as well as cleaning protocols and staff training. The locker rooms will be closed and the towel service at both facilities will be discontinued until further notice.
Starting July 5, in-person group exercise classes will be resuming at both centers – but spots in classes will only be available through an online reservation system.
One area where the two facilities differ are is the aquatic offerings. Both have swimming pools, but the Sabes JCC has an outdoor pool, while St. Paul’s Aquatic Center is indoors. The Sabes JCC pool is undergoing repairs, and Waldman said it will reopen when completed, hopefully in early July. However, what is undetermined is how to go about limiting the numbers at the pool during the hottest part of the summer, and Waldman those guidelines and processes are still being worked out.
“While everything may feel different our attention our care for our members and staff remains the same,” Waldman said. “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us to raise our demanding standards to an even higher level and we are rising to the occasion.”
Starting July 13, the JCCs will offer camp-age childcare at the Sabes JCC and at Camp Butwin – the St. Paul JCC’s offsite day camp in Eagan. Waldman said that the programs will be limited to about 50 kids per location. And despite it being at the locations where Olami and Butwin would be – these programs will differ from camp.
Waldman said, “The modifications that were required of camp programming, such as large group gatherings for flagpole & Z’mirot, and field trips, prevent us from providing the full camp experience that everyone has come to expect and love. This childcare structure will provide a safe and engaging opportunity for children to stay busy and active during the summer. We will avoid co-mingling between each group as much as possible.”
For example, anyone who signs up for the program at Camp Butwin, will need to drive their children to the camp. Under normal summer conditions, busing is offered from a variety of places to the campgrounds.
“We are asking our members to partner with us and to follow the protocols and share our goal of keeping the community safe,” Waldman said. “We can do it together. Everything we’re doing is with the safety and health of the community in mind.”