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Lennox baseball and softball approved to start; new swimming pool to open June 1

By Anne Homan

In a Special meeting Saturday, May 9, Lennox Council approved the 2020 summer recreation program and opening of the city pool on June 1. The decision comes following much discussion during a work session held Thursday, May 7 between the Lennox City Council and the Park and Rec board.

The decision was made despite a recommendation from the City’s Parks and Recreation Specialist, Justin Meyers, to not open leagues to the normal extent and not to open the pool until there is a constant decline in COVID-19 cases.

During the work session, Meyers began by stating the following recommendation,

“After considering current data of COVID-19, and opinions of other recreation professionals across South Dakota from Vermillion, Tea, Harrisburg, and representatives from the Prairie Grass League, also considering the latest data from the public survey, I recommend not opening recreation leagues to the normal extent. I want to explore other options that may be an alternate to a full season. The option of youth camps, youth clinics, and a limited number of players and coaches, seems more feasible to abide by social distancing guidelines and enforcement of those guidelines.

“I believe a clinic, camp, or private practice limited to 10 people including the coach, could be an option or be subject to change, based upon current information on COVID-19. This way parents/coaches could monitor social distancing while in a small group, instead of 2-4 coaches per 20 (assuming each team roster had 10-12 kids). If leagues are canceled, this can be a viable option because there would not be a league to play in. If this option would happen registrants would be issued full refunds.

“I recommend for the pool that it not be opened until we see a constant decline in COVID-19 cases. Being close to Sioux Falls and one of the United States hotspots for COVID-19, I want community health and safety to be a priority. I feel it would be next to impossible to enforce social distancing at the new pool. Individuals who have pre- purchased pool passes for this year would have their pool pass carried over for the next year or refunded. If we plan to open, please refer to the COVID-19 guideline packet recommended by the World Waterpark Association.”

Meyers also stated in a memo that to open the recreational leagues the City faces many challenges consisting of time, hiring umpires, ordering equipment/shirts/hats, social distancing of children, not allowing/limiting attendance and chance of game rules to comply with the CDC. For the pool, he noted there will be a need for additional staffing, consisting of two attendants to disinfect bathrooms, two attendants to monitor social distancing, two lifeguards and one front desk worker. There will also be a need to transform pool rules, opening time and the challenge of enforcing social distancing guidelines.

The City sent out a survey May 4 to ask people in the community about the possibility of opening. City Administrator, Nate Vander Plaats said they had a very good response rate with 421 responding.

The majority was in favor of having summer rec programs while the comfort level averaged about a 3.44. Several wanted to see changes in place, including limiting spectators, enforcing social distancing, and having no concessions.

Seventy-four percent of those surveyed were in favor of opening the pool this season while 26 percent would prefer a delay.

Mayor Tracy West asked for thoughts on the matter.

Discussion was held on what area communities were doing with the conclusion that many are delaying their decision.

“I think a lot of these towns are going to follow each other so if we would move forward I think a lot of towns would move forward, if we would say no, I think a lot of towns would follow suit with that,” said Park and Rec board member, Britney Mower.

“We just have to do what we feel is best for us,” said City Council member Chad Wulf.

Clint Johnson brought up the question about if a child on a team tests positive for COVID-19, does the entire team need to be quarantined and the team they played?

“As far as the COVID-19 in the household and someone can’t go back to work, that’s going to be a household decision,” said board member Chad Reilly.

Vander Plaats says if someone contracts the Coronavirus they would have to follow the guidelines set forth by the CDC.

“I think that the virus is not going away. So these kids that are in their houses and not seeing anybody else and they are all going to come out in August and go to school and be exposed at that time. I see value in having limited exposure over a greater amount of time rather than them all coming out in August and hugging their friends at that point. If we try to hide from it we are going to be in our houses for the next 12-18 months. That’s my opinion. I also don’t want to be the front runner and we make this decision and something negative happens. There’s obviously risks to it,” said Mower.

Mower continued and ended with her statement that she is in favor of having a rec program. She also stated that it’s up to individuals to make that decision and that if they have someone that is immune compromised their summer may look different than someone else’s summer.

“And that’s unfortunate for that family,” she added.

Others had concerns about maybe just focusing on the older groups as social distancing may be hard to maintain in the t-ball age group.

“My opinion’s a little bit different this year because I don’t have kids playing. My first leaning was kind of more of a cancellation,” said Park and Rec board member, Jason Foss.

He was in favor of older groups but felt t-ball should not be considered, he also felt one year missed when you’re 9 or 10 or in t-ball won’t be the end of the deal.

Councilman Brock Rops stated, “To basically rule out, and say, well if some kid died from COVID, it’s on the responsibility that they got it from playing T-ball, I don’t see how you can possibly say that. Unless they are absolutely in the house and never coming out, then they shouldn’t be playing anyway.”

Rops continued, “I just think the data says young kids just aren’t that… they are mostly asymptomatic, and I say move forward. Again, this could change in two weeks.”

Councilman Billy Welch said to “proceed with caution”.

Discussion continued on the rec program with many wanting to give a refund to those families who would not feel comfortable going forward.

Foss shared that he personally wouldn’t want his kids playing.

“What we have to do is really re-register everyone,” he added.

Talk shifted to the pool with desire to continue to push forward for the June 1 opening.

Mower was concerned about the Lennox pool opening and kids from other towns getting in line before the Lennox kids are able to.

Reilly wanted to make a recommendation for those who wanted to go to the pool to show a Lennox School ID to get it.

There were concerns about that idea.

At the special City Council meeting on Saturday, May 9, the Council approved the following for the 2020 Summer Recreation Program and Pool:

Baseball and Softball Program will begin practice start date June 1 with tentative games starting June 15. T-ball and 8U will begin practice July 1 with tentative games beginning July 15.

The Pool opening date was approved for June 1.

Refunds will be issued to those who withdraw from the program by 11:59 p.m. on May 15, 2020.

After May 15, rostering, scheduling and coaches’ meetings can occur to place the latest registrants who did not opt out of the season into a team.

In a conference call with members of the South Dakota Parks and Recreation Association (SDPRA), there was discussion of a statewide unified plan that was being formed for Parks and Recreation programs in the state. The unified plan would have the latest COVID-19 guidelines, employee protection, disinfection, and social distancing measures depending if your community chooses to have a season. The next SDPRA meeting will be on Thursday, May 14.

“I anticipate being able to implement this plan to the extent possible for our programs,” said Meyers.

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