We Need Summer Programs Now More than Ever

Shut out, but not silent…

Attending this most recent Old Lyme’s Parks and Recreation Commission meeting was an eye opener. As constituents were turned away and told that they could not physically attend a meeting that was listed as public on the town website, with the location listed as Meeting Hall on the town calendar, and also verbally told by the Selectmen’s office that they could appear in person, we were then shunned, left outside to watch from the windows, directed that we could only call in, as the Commission meet inside, unmasked, in a giant room filled with empty chairs. To say we were bewildered was an understatement.

We were there for our children, to show support in the reinstatement of the Summer Day Camp. And while we are thankful that the Commission insinuated that it is now open to entertaining ideas, it is marked by great skepticism. The fact that the Summer Day Camp program was not a top priority months ago is a shame and a true let down by our leadership. We never imagined that our town, which proudly stood as a model all school year, would fail now, as the entire rest of the State paves the way. As parents, the thought that Old Lyme would not run its Summer Day Camp never even crossed our minds. We could not imagine that we would abandon our “all in” philosophy just because school would be out. That should have been reason enough to make sure it happened. And the fact that so much energy has been, and continues to be, focused on ensuring the safety resumption of sport programs, from lacrosse to soccer to rowing, is hypocritical. The notion and seemingly justification, of having 225 children playing lacrosse, albeit not all together at the same time, but instead having contact with the other children, from other communities, in the playing of such games, and then coming back into our schools and community is “safer” than our Summer Parks and Rec Day Camp is nonsensical. And that is just one sport – it does not even take into account all the hundreds of contacts from all of the other sports, from players to spectators, wherein the numbers in totality are virtually immeasurable. But then the Commission has the audacity to imply that contact tracing is only an impediment to the Summer Day Camp – this defies logic. It shows a true lack of rationale and undermines the Commission’s stated concern.

The Commission then tried to briefly, and selectively, talk COVID facts, again with only reference to its effects on the Summer Day Camp, as if sport programs are somehow immune. They brought up outdated and inaccurate data, while mentioning recent articles in The Day about other towns, trying to apply it only in situations that fit their agenda. But perhaps they did not realize that in doing this they are not only belittling our remarkable accomplishments, but that many of us actually work on the frontlines and know the facts firsthand.

Our schools have successfully, and safety, demonstrated how we can reopen. And our children have proven they can do it – and no, we do not have to worry about them “hugging” as one Commission member tried to use as an excuse. Our children have exemplified all school year they have what it takes to make this possible. We can use them as a model to how to safely run our Summer Parks and Rec Day Camp. We can also look to how our neighboring towns, who once looked to us, are running their programs.

We think it is important to note that in no way are we trying to suggest that sport programs should not run, but instead we are trying to uphold equality for all programs. As a community we should stand together and acknowledge the social, emotional, and psychological impact that ALL our local programs have on our youths. They need this now more than ever.

Let’s be all in together.

Melissa Chapps
Old Lyme, CT

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