Peter LeClerc is a busy man these days. In addition to his regular duties as Director of Parks and Recreation here in Suffield, he is also managing a new COVID-related project called S-PREP, shorthand for Suffield Parks and Recreation Enrichment Program. The new effort started up in mid-September, in response to the needs of families with elementary-aged children who are participating in the schools’ hybrid learning arrangement.
The sixteen or so students in S-PREP, who range from kindergarten to fifth grade, are divided into cohorts matching those of our school system. They attend regular school when they can, and do their distance learning in the company of others and with adult help. They meet in classrooms and outdoor areas provided by our Senior Center, which itself would otherwise not be in use. Students and staff alike wear masks, and are careful to leave appropriate space between participants. Between cohorts, the buildings undergo a deep cleaning.
Finding staff has been a challenge, LeClerc reports, since the positions are mostly part time, blending staff of the Parks and Recreation Department with others. At the moment there are six adults working with the children, not including Peter, who says he oversees the program from a card table with a laptop on it! Despite its informality, however, S-PREP is a well-organized, well run outfit. It isn’t easy to meet the needs of children with different class schedules while keeping in mind the importance of safe social interaction. So far the weather has made it possible for lunch and play times to take place outdoors, which has been helpful.
There is no question that S-PREP is providing an invaluable service for children and parents alike, and all are grateful. “The kids are fantastic,” says LeClerc; everyone has observed the precautionary rules, and there have been no illnesses among the group. LeClerc himself has been teaching physical education, which he has enjoyed–a new element to add to his resume! And what a creative and well planned program S-PREP is; it’s no wonder other towns are calling for advice!