Guest column: Strengthening communities by supporting our youth
Published 6:30 am Wednesday, December 23, 2020
By Kelsey Shea
YMCA Community Engagement Coordinator
The year 2020 has been filled with lots of unforeseen changes for the community and organizations of Austin and the YMCA at Austin Community Recreation Center (ACRC) is no exception.
Our brand new facility first opened to the public on Feb. 3. The Rec Center quickly became a popular gathering space for both community and YMCA members to create memories with their family and friends. In mid-March, Gov. Walz issued an executive order to temporarily close fitness centers in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. While this did impact fitness operations, it did not stop the YMCA at ACRC’s important mission to respond to community needs, in particular childcare.
Throughout the pandemic, the YMCA at ACRC has maintained operation of essential childcare needs and pivoted when necessary to continue to serve school aged children. In March, the YMCA offered all day school aged childcare for emergency workers. On June 8, we began offering summer childcare with the YMCA Summer Daze program. In September, as the new school year began, the YMCA offered preschool and afterschool childcare. In October, it was announced children would be distance learning on Wednesday, so the YMCA at ACRC began all day childcare. Starting Nov. 23, the district announced that they would be moving to a distance learning model until Jan. 4, 2021, so the YMCA provided all day care five days a week.
The YMCA at ACRC is very proud to be operating and maintaining a safe environment of high-quality programming for both preschool and school aged children. The safety of children, our staff, and the Austin community is our number one priority. We follow guidance from the State of Minnesota and the Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control, Y-USA and any direction given from local health authorities. We are diligent in keeping up on the latest guidelines and amend our policies and procedures when necessary to reflect the best practices during the COVID-19 Pandemic. All drop offs/pick-ups of children in our care occur right at the child’s vehicle to limit the number of people entering the building. Upon arrival, all children wash their hands and we practice increased handwashing throughout the day. We have increased cleaning protocols to ensure touch points are getting cleaned and disinfected throughout the day. We have also kept group sizes small to allow for adequate social distancing.
At the YMCA at ACRC, you can expect more than simply childcare. You can rest-assure that your children will be provided with opportunities for learning and recreation. We have come up with exciting games and activities to keep the children moving, engaged and active while minimizing the use of shared equipment. Each child has their own bag of art supplies. Children in our programming have access to the YMCA gymnasium and Indoor Playground to burn off energy. In addition, healthy snacks are offered daily. Students enrolled in preschool receive a session of swimming lessons at no additional cost.
The following testimonial is from Jessica Hutchinson, a parent and community partner. “My experience with the YMCA at ACRC Preschool has been nothing short of fantastic. From the attention and care given to my son, to the love and learning he is getting, I feel I am giving him the best start possible! In a time where uncertainty seems to be the only predictable thing, the YMCA has proven itself to be a leader in providing a safe environment where my son can continue in-person learning. The YMCA at ACRC not only provides a safe space for my child, but for other children as well. They provide childcare and distance learning support for school-aged children and a safe space for students enrolled in the A.C.E Tutoring program in partnership with Austin Aspires to receive tutoring support two days a week. Their dedication and support for our young learners during this time is commendable and I am proud to be a YMCA at ACRC Preschool parent and partner. On behalf of my family and Austin Aspires, Thank You!”
At the YMCA at ACRC, we are proud to support our community through high-quality youth programming. We hope that 2021 brings a return to our wellness operations. Until then, we will continue to serve where we can and make the most impact for working families and youth. If you have questions or would like to enroll your child in a YMCA program, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.