[Posted October 14, 2020]
Recent adjustments to Gov. Kate Brown’s anti-COVID policies allow for re-opening swimming pools and indoor soccer team play. Operations were forced to shut down in March and have gradually re-opened since the Phase 1 re-opening started in June.
Portland Parks indoor facilities, including the Southwest Community Center and Multnomah Arts Center, are closed with no re-opening planned (see sidebar, below).
MJCC facilities are currently open to members only. Membership is open to all.
Limited after-school programs for school-aged children started August 31. Current offerings are limited by state room occupation guidelines. MJCC is applying for an emergency license to allow it to expand its after-care offerings soon.
Safety protocols throughout the MJCC campus adhere to familiar state guidelines: taking temperatures, hand sanitizing and surface disinfecting.
Precautions that extend beyond the requirements, said MJCC Executive Director Steve Albert, include a requirement that masks be worn by staff and visitors inside all buildings (except when swimming), and the addition of a disinfecting fogger in the sportsplex to provide extra cleaning in between sessions.
All MJCC group fitness classes are being held online as are cultural and education classes . Albert said he expects even as in-person classes are eventually allowed, the center will retain some online classes for those who prefer virtual participation.
While membership numbers declined in March with COVID closures, they are starting to come back, especially with the re-opening of the swimming pools, Albert said.
Some group rentals that are able to comply with state guidelines are allowed. Basketball is not allowed under COVID restrictions, although family groups may use the courts by reservation.
Portland Jewish Academy, the K-8 school located on the MJCC campus, is in distance learning mode, and early childhood programs re-opened over the summer, but the number who can attend is limited by distancing requirements. Before COVID they might have as many as 175 children enrolled in early learning programs, but are only able to accommodate around 100 now.
In March the center laid off about 80 percent of its staff. Staffing levels are back to about 50 percent, although many employees are working reduced hours. Albert said he hopes to be able to bring more of them back as programs are expanded.
Southwest Community Center and other Parks Facilities Closed through Summer 2021
In a June email the Portland Parks Department announced that it is unlikely they will be able to open the city’s pools and community centers “in Summer 2021 and beyond.” This suspension of services includes classes, camps, and swimming lessons. Outdoor parks facilities, with the exception of basketball courts and fountains, are open under current COVID guidelines.
Funding woes are nothing new for Portland’s parks department, whose facilities are dependent on user fees to operate. Just last spring the City Council voted to permanently close several community centers in response to budget shortfalls. The loss of fees from COVID closures is the latest hit to the parks budget.
The fate of our parks is now in the hands of voters, who will be asked on November 3 to approve a 5-year operating levy. The tax rate is 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, or about $320 a year on a house valued at $400,000. The voters’ pamphlet contains four pages of statements in support of the measure; the sole statement in opposition to the measure comes from the Taxpayers Association of Oregon.