Businesses all around the country are frustrated as COVID regulations are still making planning events difficult to impossible.
Let’s look at the park district, for example. Each year recreation supervisors select field trips for summer campers. These internal and external events bring hundreds of school kids together to share, learn, and have fun. Along comes COVID, which puts a halt to all large group activities.
Park departments for decades have partnered with the school district to utilize vacant schools during the summer hours. From daycare and sporting activities to summer camps, the schools are used during the summer. The sharing of building resources has been a successful partnership for communities, as it can utilize its available building resources and have more events through the community.
The Road Block That’s Slowing Down Summer Planning
School districts around the country have been implementing their own COVID policies and procedures. Having school-age children, my wife Michelle participates in online school board meetings. And Michelle is totally frustrated at how indecisive the school board planned this school year. Not wanting to make a decision, every quarter, the district will do parent surveys, talk to experts, and when all is said and done, do something totally different than discussed in prior meetings.
Because the school board controls the schools and has an ever-changing COVID policy, park departments are now on a wait-and-see planning schedule. As recreational supervisors have to adhere to both state, city, and now school board COVID policies. Toss in uncertainty if the park department will be allowed to use these buildings for other than school activities, planning has been delayed.
In years past, recreational supervisors were concerned about room availability as they shuffled groups of kids around a building. Room availability is now a minor problem as the main concern is where do park departments hold summer camp activities if prohibited from using the school facilities?
Adding To The Frustrations
To make things more difficult, last-minute location changes are slowing park departments from printing summer brochures and mailing them to residents. Many park departments are switching to a digital calendar and now rely on their marketing department to generate web traffic to these programs.
An industry that typically plans events six to eight weeks in advance is now planning three months out, and this uncertainty has delayed marketing.
The delay is a dominos effect that becomes a hurry up, and let’s get this done, which generates low attendance and fuels the frustration of programs failing.
The park departments will adapt and, in my opinion, will have events, if possible, at their facilities. However, I see many programs on hold because recreational supervisors will have their fingers crossed that summer camps will run at their regular facilities and not go to plan B.
You may be questioning what plan B is? My guess is plan B will be outside activities held in parks or gyms the park department owns and operates. Recreational supervisors who have a budget will be booking last minute based on camp enrollment.
Several camps I talked with are planning for phase 4, a max group size of 50, and are planning to have reduced support staff. I feel the impact from COVID-19 will linger on for the rest of 2021 as many venues are considering pushing their annual events back later in the year. Already we’ve seen a decline in Cub Scouts Blue & Gold’s banquets, parent and children dances, and the first quarter holiday events going to small virtual events.
These are the issues park departments face in 2021 as COVID-19 has changed the way recreational supervisors plan and book our events. Only time will tell as we wait for answers.