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The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many people to isolate themselves in their homes and away from loved ones, coworkers and classmates. This isolation has affected different groups in different ways. As the pandemic has rolled on for almost a full year, businesses and other institutions are trying to find ways to balance safety and socialization.

Rabbi Jonathan Berger, associate head of school for Judaic studies and programs at Gross Schechter Day School in Pepper Pike; Maureen Eppich, founder of Jump Start Gymnastics in Beachwood; and Jamie Haggerty, general manager of Adrenaline Monkey in Warrensville Heights, have all had in-person programs for children, albeit in smaller groups.

Eppich, who has hosted in-person programs for children at Jump Start Gymnastics since June 1, 2020, said the most important thing to keep kids safe is transparency.

“The biggest thing (families) can do is honesty,” Eppich said. “That’s telling us when they’re going out of town, how long, where they’re going, do they need to quarantine before they go, if they’re quarantined when they’re there ... that plays the biggest part if any childrens’ activity is going to stay open.”

Berger said Gross Schechter Day School had a concrete policy that asked parents to put it in writing that they would stay as safe as possible, especially outside of school hours.

“Like many schools, we asked our parents to sign a pledge before the school year to make responsible choices in and out of school,” he said. “This includes avoiding large indoor gatherings, wearing masks in public buildings and in crowded outdoor spaces and avoiding close contact with anyone not in one’s household or carefully-managed pod.”

While parents and students have been doing a good job of following the rules outside of the building, Haggerty said there has still been a learning adjustment for the kids to stay safe inside the building.

“The main challenge is having to constantly remind the kids to keep their distance from others,” Haggerty said. “With this pandemic, kids have more rules than they can remember. When they are playing with their friends, it’s not natural for them to stay 6 feet apart.”

As challenging as it may be to provide a safe environment for students and counselors, Haggerty added it is important to do their best to provide a social experience for kids during times like these.

“Kids’ mental health is just as important as their physical health,” Haggerty said. “It has been more important than ever to keep kids socialized in person since they have been doing remote learning. Remote learning has been detrimental because of the lack of in person interaction that most human beings need.”

Because of this, Eppich also said that parents are grateful for the opportunity that Jump Start Gymnastics has provided for their children.

“I would say 70% of parents have said to me ‘we’re so thankful you’re open. This is the only thing we let our kids do. This is the only opportunity they have outside of the house.’ Because they’re not allowed to go to school or their school is virtual,” Eppich said. “I’ve had parents that came back and said ‘we chose to come to Jumpstart because we knew you guys would do things right.’ It’s so important. They’re losing the natural rules and regulations that they learn in a structured environment.”

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