LYNNFIELD — Lynnfield Recreation is finding some semblance of summertime amid a world of uncertainty. The activities program is operating in full force under state public health guidelines at the Summer Street and Middle schools weekday mornings through August 7.
Rec Jr., the program for incoming kindergarteners at Summer Street, saw high enrollment of 56 children this summer, despite fears about the coronavirus. Recreation Station, or “Big Rec,” as the version located at the middle school is affectionately called, entertains an average of 180 students ranging in grades one through eight each day.
The significance of being able to conduct the Rec programs, given the state of the pandemic was not lost on Recreation Director Julie Mallett.
“Being able to offer the Rec Programs this summer was more important than any other summer,” Mallett said. “We worked with the Lynnfield Emergency Management Team, Town Administrator and Board of Health Director to make sure we follow all of the COVID-19 guidelines. After weeks of preparation by the incredibly positive Rec staff, program activity planning, and counselor training with the Lynnfield Fire Department, we were able to begin to offer our programs as of June 22.”
Mallett’s Rec staff is expansive and experienced. Louise Ferullo, Mike Wein, Ali Johnson, Patricia Hazelton and Michelle Robert can all be seen leading the way at Big Rec, while Traci Ross, Laurie Jameson and Kristen Lorentzen oversee the Rec. Jr. program. All eight senior staff members have a background in education.
The village involved in making the Rec programs function doesn’t stop there, either. Lynnfield High (2020) graduate Grace MacDonald is one of many junior staff members who splits her week at both locations. This summer marks her fourth year with the program.
“I thought the little kids wouldn’t be very good at [wearing masks],” MacDonald said, “but they’re honestly pretty great. All of the kids are the best, and at Big Rec I’ve been seeing a bunch of the little kids who I saw last year at Rec. Jr., which is awesome.”
Masks are worn by children and staff members at both locations, though masks aren’t the only difference between this year’s Rec program and years past.
“Not being able to go inside is a big difference,” adds MacDonald. “Definitely on the hot days, you feel it.”
Rainy days have a bigger impact, too, when, instead of shepherding the children inside for more crafts or maybe a movie, the programs are canceled in order to abide by social distancing guidelines.
Jameson shares MacDonald’s indoor/outdoor sentiment.
“It has been challenging because of the weather,” she said. “It’s been a little less structured, which I think has been OK because these children have been inside since March. It’s been OK for them to have some unstructured play time so that they can be kids again.”
Inclement weather and mask-wearing aside, additional changes to the program included the cancellation of the Adventure Trips day trips and the constant cleaning and disinfecting of still-available resources such as balls, markers, and picnic tables. The children’s enthusiasm for activities including chalk, foursquare, exploring the play structure, and simply staying active, however, hasn’t changed at all.
On the one hand, basketball has really taken off in popularity at Rec Jr., said MacDonald, while Big Rec, on the other hand, is well-known for its popular water slide. Rec. Jr. even found an old-fashioned way to beat the heat with a classic sprinkler.
Despite the numerous obstacles the Rec programs faced due to the coronavirus, the children have adapted quickly. They wear their masks — everything from Marvel superheroes to cupcakes and unicorns adorning their faces — and when they aren’t masked for reasons, like snack time or a water break, they stay six feet apart.
“We have approximately 500 kids enjoying some much needed socially-distanced time together,” said Mallett. “We are so grateful to be able to run our programs.”