ABQ prepares summer programs for children

Copyright © 2020 Albuquerque Journal

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has closed public schools and most of the economy, has not yet claimed the city of Albuquerque’s summer youth programs.

City officials said Monday that they are prepared to move forward with some programming, though they warned that opportunities are far more limited than usual and still hinge on Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s administration moving New Mexico to the next stage – Phase 1 – of a reopening plan.

Should the state enter Phase 1, the city is ready to offer a scaled-back version of its popular community center-based summer recreation program. The city has already launched a lottery to determine which students will get slots; parents have until May 20 to enter their children in the lottery at play.cabq.gov.

With Phase 1, the city also plans to allow lap swimming at its pools, reopen portions of the ABQ BioPark and resume some library services, although most city programs will require reservations and other measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Mayor Tim Keller said “metering” will be routine as the city restarts nonessential services. He said the city will rely on registration and sign-up sheets to enable contract tracing should a COVID-19 case be discovered at a city facility.

Although the city normally serves 30,000 to 40,000 kids with its summer programs, curbing large groups may mean the number dwindles to 10,000 in 2020.

But Keller said making some level of child care available is vital for a community looking to reopen its economy, because many parents may have no other options when they return to work.

In fact, Bernalillo County said last week that it was canceling its traditional summer community center programs and keeping its outdoor pools closed.

The city of Albuquerque, Keller said, “really is child care during the summer for basically half of central New Mexico,” and needs to proceed even in a reduced capacity.

Summer rec programs will take several measures to limit the spread of coronavirus, such as lowering child-to-staff ratios, conducting daily temperature checks and grouping participants into small cohorts.

“Kids will stay in their groups all day and all summer,” said Cristin Chavez-Smith of the city’s Family & Community Services Department. “There won’t be a lot of intermingling between groups.”

While the city has prepared to offer the programs, Keller cautioned that there are no guarantees, because state officials will decide when Phase 1 can begin.

New Mexico currently remains in a “preparation” phase and will evaluate COVID-19 transmission rates, testing capacity and other factors before moving forward.

“To get to any of (the city programs), we have to continue doing what we’re doing,” Keller said. “The state will make the flag-fall call on when we can move to Phase 1, and we’ll be ready to do so with all our programs.”

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