People watching to see if COVID-19 precautions are working

PASO ROBLES — The Paso Robles Boys and Girls Club is entering the final week of its four-week summer camp.

Having a summer camp is not usually a big deal for the Boys and Girls Club, but having one during a pandemic is kind of a big deal, and people are closely watching.

“It can be done. We are doing it,” said Jillian Shumate-Gunderson, Boys and Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast North County Area Director.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast — Atascadero, Paso Robles, Shandon, Santa Maria and Guadalupe — were closed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in March when he issued his stay-home orders.

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Everyone is screened and has their temperature taken before entering the Paso Robles Boys and Girls Club. Photo by Brian Williams

Paso Robles and Santa Maria reopened with summer camps on July 13. The other sites remain closed but are planning to open when school resumes next month.

The Paso Robles Club’s building is owned by the Paso Robles Joint Unified School District and is in the middle of Bauer-Speck Elementary, next to Flamson Middle School. The club needed approval from the school district to run the abbreviated summer program.

“We work with Paso Robles Superintendent Curt Dubost and he is totally in support of us being open,” Shumate-Gunderson said. “He calls us Guinea pigs. I call us pioneers. We are the example, and I think we are a really good example.”

With social distancing guidelines in place, the Paso Robles Boys and Girls Club is limited to 27 children. Pre-COVID-19, the club’s capacity was nearly 150 children.

It’s noticeably quieter, says Paso Robles Club Co-Director Alora McNulty.

“It’s a very different environment,” McNulty said. “It’s definitely a change, a lot more quiet and calm.”

Each day begins with parents dropping their child off between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m., answering questions such as if they have been around someone with COVID-19 and having their temperature taken.

“It’s an easy process and the parents are understanding about it. Parents know they are going to have to answer these questions,” Shumate-Gunderson said. “It’s going to take at least five minutes. Their kids have to come in and immediately wash their hands and go directly to their spot at the table.”

If parents are late, their child is not admitted that day.

“If they are late, they don’t get to come for the day because our’ sanitizer’ moves on, to sanitizing the restroom every 20 minutes, sanitizing their chairs and the tables when they go outside,” Shumate-Gunderson said.

Staff also begin their day answering the same questions and having their temperature taken.

Everyone is required to wear a mask inside of the building. When outside, children are not required to wear a mask, but they have to stay six feet apart.

Inside the club, tables are spaced six feet apart. Two kids are assigned to each table. Each child has a plastic shoe-box sized tub that holds pens, crayons, and markers. Each child also has a designated locker.

“That is their very own equipment. Nobody is sharing anything,” Shumate-Gunderson said.

As the children move from activity to activity, they are required to wash their hands in the restroom and anything they physically touch is sanitized before starting the next activity. After each child uses the restroom, it is immediately cleaned by the “sanitizer.”

“We trade off each week who is the sanitizer,” Shumate-Gunderson said, adding she was grateful to Western Janitorial in Paso Robles for donating all of their sanitizing supplies.

The summer camp concludes on Aug. 7 and then Boys and Girls Clubs of Mid Central Coast will be hiring, training and preparing for when school starts in August.

Usually, the Boys and Girls Club provides after-school activities. However, with schools starting with distance learning, Schumate-Gunderson says they will be open from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday in Paso Robles, Shandon and Atascadero.

The two other North County clubs are also on school campuses — at Shandon Elementary in Shandon and the Fine Arts Academy in Atascadero.

“When school starts Aug. 20, the first half of our days will be tutoring, helping the kids with their virtual learning, getting things up and going, helping them with math and reading,” Shumate-Gunderson said. “And then we will take it into enrichment activities.”

The cost of the summer program was $50 per child per week. When school starts, it will be $100 per child per week. Financial assistance is available.

When in-person learning resumes at schools, the Boys and Girls Clubs will return to its usual after-school program.

Shumate-Gunderson says a great deal of work went into their protocols.

“We are not taking anything lightly,” she said. “We had to rewrite the handbook. We had to do a ton of stuff, so parents and the boards know we are taking this seriously. This is not a joke.”

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