Best Practices for a Safe Return to Recreation Programming

Best Practices Safe Return to Programming

With many states starting to slowly reopen, recreation organizations are tasked with a safe return to programming that keeps participants and staff healthy and safe while maintaining the positive community environment that everyone is used to. We’ve put together some best practices to help you now and as we navigate the coming weeks and months.

Follow State and Local Guidelines

Before you consider anything in this guide, your organization should always prioritize local, state, and federal health authority guidelines. Make sure you’re up-to-date on any new recommendations or advisories so that you can adjust as quickly as possible. Here’s a great resource from the CDC to get you started with your (re)opening decisions.

Make Sure Participant Information Is Up-To-Date

With information and health needs changing so quickly and often during the global health crisis, it’s even more important to make sure that participant details are accurate and up-to-date. Here are a few suggestions to make this easy for staff and families:

  • Make submission mandatory: Let parents know that if they choose not to provide the required information, they will not be admitted to a program.
  • Collect information regularly: Send out reminders to families every few days so that they don’t forget to share their information with you or leave it to the start of a program.
  • Collect COVID-19 related information: Consider collecting information that helps you identify at-risk individuals or those who have recovered from the virus.
  • Confirm information as programs start: Ask families to double-check details for accuracy and relevance, and ensure that staff have all they need to support participants.
  • Make administrative processes paperless: By eliminating paper forms, you remove one additional area of physical contact between staff and families.
  • Use waivers for new processes: Families can acknowledge and accept new operating procedures or commit to honest health monitoring requirements.

Make Sure You Have Accurate Staff Information

Much the same as your participants, your staff’s health and safety are paramount during this time. Most of the suggestions in the previous section apply to staff too so here are additional considerations for your team:

  • Collect information about underlying conditions: Identify staff that may be at added risk of infection and implement additional measures to protect them while at work.
  • Collect information about home life: Identify cohabitants of front-line workers or those responsible for children, elderly, or immunocompromised family members.
  • Increase sick days and loosen requirements for doctor’s notes: When staff can take a few days to care for themselves, they’re less likely to come to work and potentially expose others to infection.

Implement Prevention Measures Before & During Programs

Part of everyone’s return to a new normal will include ongoing measures to prevent the outbreak and spread of the virus before, during, and even after your programs are complete. These best practices are based on advice from the WHO and CDC and are always subject to change:

  • Maintain physical distancing: Design or adjust activities to allow participants to maintain the recommended 6ft (2m) distance from one another.
  • Temperature checks and health screening: Conduct these as staff and participants enter your facilities or start a program and add extra checks for close-contact programs if you host them.
  • Encourage face coverings: Consider prioritizing the use of masks for those activities that require closer contact, if possible.
  • Avoid using items that cannot be disinfected between use: Soft-surface/porous items are harder to disinfect regularly (toys, play items) so keep those out of use for now.
  • Prioritize handwashing: For younger participants, take them to wash their hands frequently and make sure there is hand sanitizer available in the interim.
  • Implement permissive refund policies: Families are encouraged to stay home when they’re unwell if they know it’s easy for them to get their money back on programs.

Communicate Frequently

With information changing so often, communicating effectively with families, participants, and staff is key. Here are some ways to share important details with everyone:

  • Post updates in facilities: Make the most of your noticeboards or whiteboards to post updates, reminders, and alerts so that everyone can see them wherever they are.
  • Send messages to families and their support networks: If you use ePACT, you can send voice, email, and text messages to share important information with everyone.
  • Update existing materials: Use your website and handbooks to provide updated information about new processes and procedures so they’re easy to find.
  • Stay up-to-date: If you find that any of your new procedures aren’t working, ensure you have a process in place to make adjustments and communicate them quickly.
  • Be accessible to families: As you keep your digital tools up-to-date, consider holding regular, virtual Q&A sessions to allow families to get the extra information they need.
  • Registration refunds: If any family objects to your new procedures make sure your refund policy addresses this as efficiently as possible.

Clean & Disinfect

Cleanliness is key to preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus within your facilities and among families. While participants are in your programs, here’s how to keep things clean:

  • Frequently disinfect commonly used items and areas throughout your facilities. E.g. countertops, program equipment, computers, washrooms, meal areas, etc.
  • Provide staff with the equipment and supplies they need to keep things clean regularly.
  • Provide hand sanitizer near entry points of facilities, whether it’s the freestanding dispensers or pump bottles.
  • Add to your in-facility signage to remind everyone of the importance of handwashing and encourage them to do so correctly.

We hope you find these suggestions helpful and wish everyone a positive, safe return-to-programming.

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