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Sharon leans toward offering summer child care

SHARON — Weighing issues of safety and the enforcement of rules, the selectmen in Sharon discussed strategies for a regulated opening of the town beach and summer day care program, at their regular meeting on Tuesday, May 26.  

All agreed that state COVID-19 guidelines will be the rule at the town facilities.

“We have to be sure everyone is protected,” Selectman Casey Flanagan said. “Many people won’t understand the rules.”

Flanagan indicated that Matt Andrulis-Mette, director of Parks and Recreation, would need to be at the forefront. “He will need to be involved to manage the variables.”

Casey said that the current lifeguards are college students, who might not have the experience to deal with difficult situations.

“We all need to be realistic about this,” Casey added.

Andrulis-Mette said the selectmen would need to be supportive of the staff. He said that the beach will not open unless there is adequate supervision. The selectmen, he said, would need to offer support when needed — and he thought it would be needed.

Social distancing will absolutely be required.

The town beach at Mudge Pond is expected to open on June 13. Large signboards will display the rules, and a gate attendant will distribute printed versions. Picnic tables and benches will not be available. 

There will be no lifeguards or floating docks and the swim area will be reduced.

Hours will run from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

“The biggest challenge will be density,” said Selectman Dale Jones, saying that he knows Andrulis-Mette will arrive at an attendance limit.

Whether the Little Rascals day care program would be offered this year was discussed. Andrulis-Mette asked the basic question of how much does the town of Sharon want or need day care.  He added that if the town wants it, it cannot fund itself.

Challenges to offering the program include replacing the drinking fountains with bottled water; and confining participation to groups of 10 that never interact with each other. 

Rather than a single bus, three buses might be needed to keep the groups separated for trips.

Representing the program (which would open on June 22) was Little Rascals Program Director Liz Cash, who said that about 15 children are registered so far. Some are local, some from out of town, but more would be expected if the program went ahead.

Jones said the selectmen need to decide on the funding question. “We don’t know the real numbers,” he added.

Casey said that for parents, many major changes have been made to lives in recent months. “We could probably make it through the summer.”

Jones favored town support for the necessary funding to make the program happen. He said that it would “bring families a little breathing space.” 

In general, the selectmen supported proceeding with planning for a beach opening and the Little Rascals program, while adhering to state guidelines as the phased reopening continues. The day care program will need to provide a cost estimate for the selectmen to take to the Board of Finance for approval.

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