The City of Windsor is ramping up its recreational programs and complexes after COVID-19 shuttered most operations back in March.
Among the reopenings are after-school programs for kids aged six to 18 at Windsor Water World, Adie Knox Herman Recreation Complex and Gino and Liz Marcus Community Complex.
A school program at Capri Pizzeria Recreation Complex is also available, and the city says if there is sufficient demand, programs such as Thai Chi, Yoga, Karate and preschool activities will also open there and at the WFCU Centre later in October.
But the reopening has to prioritize government, public health, and local guidelines including a city mask bylaw.
"What we did was look at those guidelines and the mayor's order and complied with them the best we could," said Scott Bisson, manager of community programming for recreation and culture for the city.
Bisson explained the four after-school programs are funded through the province and are important for our community.
"A lot of parents are working and they need programs like ours so they can work and someone is taking are of their child," he said.
Of course, COVID-19 precautions are at the forefront of staff running these facilities.
"We screen people coming in and out of buildings, we do temperature checks ... we were lucky to do it safely during the summer and we hope to do that with the after school programs," said Bisson.
Ice rentals are available at the WFCU and Capri centres with five ice pads in total, however there are limits to capacity. Same goes for using swim lanes at the aquatic centre and WFCU pools.
The last six months have been the longest Lori Corriveau has been off the ice in 35 years, she told CBC News. The skating instructor with the South Windsor Skating Club could not be happier to have the ice back.
"The kids are just — wow — they're smiling, they're happy, it's like riding a bike," she said. "They were worried at first but after a few skates it's all coming back to them."
Corriveau said the protocols the city has in place are in line with Skate Canada's — the national governing body for figure skating in Canada.
"The kids, they just want to skate and they will do what it takes, follow any rules, to get out here and do what they love to do," she said.
Classes are full for the intake that's available, said Corriveau, who is also looking forward to the addition of programs for younger kids once they can become safely available.
"These are all small incremental steps and the goal is to build on each success and to do it well and safely before we move on and add anything else," said Bisson, adding that none of the facilities or programs will be anywhere near full-capacity.
The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has been working with the city on each new opening to ensure proper protocols and plans are in place at the facilities, said Bisson. They also came to reinspect before after-school programs began.
Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed said the programs and recreational activities are important for people's health both physically and mentally.
"If you're a high risk individual, the recommendation would change. But we're not asking everyone to stop doing everything, we're not there yet and hopefully won't be," said Ahmed, who has been urging Windsor-Essex residents to continue to stay vigilant as local case counts remain low.
"The only way to be safe and feel comfortable to follow physical distancing, washing your hands, not sharing equipment, doing it responsibility."
Ahmed said there is one very important rule that both adults and children need to follow, which is to stay home if you are sick.
"You have to consider your people you're playing with, ideally avoid physical contact or coming in contact with anyone not part of your household," he said.
So far, the summer camp [program at Capri has went well, said Bisson, and if they were to have an outbreak at any facility the city would work closely with health unit partners on what to do.
"It's been great to welcome our staff back into the building and into jobs they love to do. We had a great summer day camp program, after school is off to a good start," he said.