Houlton Recreation Center prepares for remodeled after-school program

HOULTON, Maine — As schools adjust to a new learning model for students for the semester, the after-school program at the Houlton Recreation Center is also preparing for changes.

Beginning Wednesday, Sept. 16, the Rec Center will begin its weekly program to look after children after the end of the school day, which this year has been moved to an earlier time of 1:30 p.m. Available for kids in kindergarten through sixth grade, the program this year applies new protocols, which include requiring children to wear masks and providing hand sanitizer to help with disinfection.

“We’re going to try to keep them outdoors for now,” said Marie Carmichael, the recreation program director for the Houlton Parks & Recreation Department. “We’ll maybe go to Riverfront Park or go disc golfing, or other socially distanced activities.” 

The program is operating on Wednesdays once a week, as it has usually done, albeit with an earlier start time of 1:30 p.m. due to the shortened school day. But in one month, as the temperatures begin to drop, children will have to be moved indoors to the rec center, where further guidelines may have to be applied to accommodate an indoor after-school experience. 

“We have an area all set up for if we do inside activities — all the kids will be able to be six feet apart,” says Carmichael. “We’ll be mindful of what the CDC has recommended for inside activities and make sure we’re following all the guidelines.” 

The program will also assess whether to continue using the Wednesday format or potentially expand to a three-day format to provide extra relief to parents who may need it. 

Several after-school programs run by school districts, such as in Houlton and Hodgdon, have been canceled for this year, limiting the number of choices parents have for sending their kids to after-school care if they have to continue work. 

Despite the changes to the program and the requirement of masks for kids, Carmichael said they still plan on doing many of the things they’ve done before, incorporating arts and crafts and science projects into their indoor activities. 

“We feel bad for the kids,” she said. “But we’ll try to provide them with some activities and make it as normal as we can.”

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