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Some municipal recreation facilities to open starting Friday, hiring staff could be challenging

By Carla O'Day

Local parks and recreation departments are scheduled to start resuming some operations on Friday, but local officials warn not to expect business as usual.

Reno Parks and Recreation director Jaime Schroeder told the City Council on Wednesday that the department is following the state’s phased reopening plan.

The phase 2 plan starts Friday and Schroeder said she expects most pools to open June 8 with reduced capacity and other restrictions, such as pre-registration being required for some activities and locker rooms being closed—meaning people would need to show up and depart in their swim attire.

However, Reno faces a potential staffing problem that could stifle recreation programs. The city laid off almost 400 temporary, part-time staff — many of whom were college students — from its parks department in March when facilities were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It also refunded approximately $200,000 to citizens who pre-paid fees.

Many of the employees worked the before- and after-school programs at area elementary schools, which didn’t reopen after spring vacation. However, they were permitted to stay on the city employment roster without being assigned hours or getting paid. Recruitment for youth programs is challenging due to low pay, split shifts, and hours restrictions.

“We will immediately commence scheduling of staff that are in temporary layoff status and recruit to replace staff who chose not to or could not come back from the layoff,” Schroeder said. “This may take up to 45 working days, depending on when we are able to resume operations.”

McKinley Arts and Culture Center sign
Image: Trevor Bexon

Schroeder said reopening the Evelyn Mount Northeast Community Center, one of the city’s main recreation hubs, is a top priority. Hours are expected to be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.

“We will be able to reopen the facility on a limited basis by reassigning full-time staff to work the front desk and perform other duties normally done by part-time staff, until part-time positions are filled,” a report to city council members said. “Hours of operation will expand into the evening and weekends as we fill the staff vacancies.”

Also a priority is the Vacation Station childcare program, Schroeder said. The normal 1:20 ratio will be 1:9 to comply with health guidelines.

Although parks will open, athletic fields will not. Other facilities, such as the Neil Road Recreation Center and McKinley Arts & Culture Center, will open once staffing levels are reached. However, senior programs will have to wait.

“Paradise Park is one of the facilities used heavily by our senior community and I know we’re making certain we haven’t left our seniors out of the discussion,” Councilman Devon Reese said. “What’s the idea or thought behind Paradise Park?”

Schroeder said seniors are still advised to shelter in place.

“We currently have Paradise Park Activity Center in phase 4,” Schroeder said.

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