School and county playgrounds reopen

Elk Island Public Schools and Strathcona County both announced that playgrounds are reopening, with precautions on county playgrounds removed on Friday, May 22. All EIPS playgrounds within the county should be opened within two weeks. Photo Supplied

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With COVID-19 cases in the area remaining low and phase one of the Alberta government’s relaunch strategy underway,  children in Strathcona County have been able to venture back onto playgrounds.

Elk Island Public Schools and Strathcona County both announced that playgrounds are reopening, with precautions on county playgrounds removed on Friday, May 22.

EIPS playgrounds in Sherwood Park, Ardrossan, Uncas and Fultonvale will all be opened by Friday, June 5. Of those, 14 playgrounds owned by the school division are located within Strathcona County and they will reopen with the next two weeks.

Signage is being installed at each playground explaining to users the risks of using the equipment.

“As soon as signage is ready, we will start removing tape and installing signage — likely the week of June 1-5,” explained Laura McNabb, EIPS’ director of communications.

EIPS warns families visiting playgrounds must be aware of the risks as neither Strathcona County nor the division are sanitizing the equipment.

The division also said social distancing requirements and Alberta Health Services gathering restrictions still apply despite the opening of playgrounds. Individuals from different households should remain at least two metres apart and no more than 50 people can be at the playground at a time.

“Families need to know they are assuming some risk when they use playground equipment,” McNabb said. “It will be not cleaned and so children will need to be supervised to ensure they are keeping their hands away from their faces, washing their hands before and after play, and using hand sanitizer while they are at playgrounds.”

Basketball courts, both on EIPS and county property, have also reopened, although social distancing and hygiene guidelines are still in place.

The guidelines mirror that of the county’s.

“Public health is still the overall guiding principle and what that means practically is six feet apart, one hockey stick, hand hygiene, 50 or fewer people gathered outdoors, indoors 15 or fewer people. Everything is guided by public health and these decisions are Alberta Health decisions and the county doesn’t want to intervene in the political sense and make these decisions because it is all about keeping numbers down,” explained Mayor Rod Frank.

Strathcona County guidelines also layout that those visiting playgrounds should wash their hands at home before and after playground use, use hand sanitizer at the playground and only visit playgrounds in your neighbourhood to help reduce the number of people using playgrounds at a time.

The county also said anyone who is sick should not be visiting any playgrounds.

Playgrounds were closed at the directive of the province on March 15, the same time classes were cancelled for students across the province.

The mayor noted it is good to see residents continuing to follow social distancing and safety precautions and for everyone to bear with the county as it works through this unprecedented time.

Frank added the data is looking very good right now and infection numbers remain low for the county.

“The numbers are very low and phase two, which is set for June 19, might be brought up even quicker, which is further good news,” Frank said.

Stage two would include things like personal services (tanning, massages, skin and body treatments, etc.), movie theatres with restrictions, larger gatherings and libraries.

EIPS said while the rate of infections and hospitalizations has decreased in recent days and playgrounds are reopening, it is still possible to contract COVID-19 and it suggests those visiting division sites take the proper precautions to avoid getting sick.

tdosser@postmedia.com

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