Update on Phased Reactivation
As we continue to navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and Ontario gradually reopens its economy, the YMCA of Niagara is considering how best to reactivate our Health, Fitness and Aquatics Centres.
The YMCA has been dedicated to building healthy communities in Niagara for more than 150 years.
We are eager to reactivate programming as quickly as possible, but we need to ensure we can provide this programming in economically sustainable ways. Our five locations in Niagara provide critical programming to children, youth, families and our most vulnerable community members. We are learning from other YMCAs who have reopened locations over the summer in other parts of the province, and the country, and we acknowledge that members are slow to return at this time.
The pandemic and the economic shutdown have had a devastating impact on charitable organizations across the country, including the YMCA of Niagara. The unfortunate reality is that we were already experiencing significant financial pressures at some of our Niagara locations because of dwindling membership before the pandemic forced us to shut down much of our programming mid-March. COVID-19 has compounded these challenges.
We rely on user fees, including membership fees, to cover the vast majority of our operating costs; this source of revenue has been largely eliminated over the past four months.
Phased Reactivation of HFA
We are conducting a review of our operations and looking at the most viable options to reactivate facilities and programs, following which we will take a phased approach to reopening individual locations based on safety, local community support/interest in YMCA programming and financial viability. We are also actively exploring additional opportunities for potential partnerships and other avenues of support and collaboration. These discussions are ongoing and no final decisions have been made on any potential operational changes.
The first phase of the reactivation of our Health, Fitness and Aquatics (HFA) sites will begin with our Port Colborne and Niagara West (Grimsby) locations, targeted to reopen mid-September. The timing for reactivation phases related to other HFA locations will follow as we continue to map our course forward in the weeks ahead.
Thank you for your patience and understanding as we go through this process.
Child Care, EarlyON, and Employment & Immigrant Services
We have just launched a phased approach to the reactivation of our Pre-School Child Care Centres to support working parents, who require care to enter back into the workforce and begin re-energizing and stimulating our economy.
We are also continuing to provide virtual services in our EarlyON activities as well as Employment and Immigrant Services, and our YMCA at Home channel. These remain our immediate focus and priority this summer.
At the YMCA of Niagara, we believe our number one priority is to ensure the health and safety of all of our members, our families and our staff that choose our YMCA to meet their health and fitness needs. While the Government of Ontario has announced that health, fitness and aquatics centres and community centres can open, we need time to ensure our processes align with Public Health and provide members, families and staff with the safest and most enjoyable experience possible upon return.
“We need to see and understand fully the necessary policies and guidelines and ensure we take the time to implement these properly. We want to ensure our staff understand and are trained to meet expectations upon your return. Our commitment is to put people first – both our valued YMCA members, participants and employees. We want to welcome you back as safely as possible,” said Kyle Barber, President and CEO, YMCA of Niagara.
In the meantime…
We’re busy getting ready and doing everything possible to ensure our facilities meet the highest standards of health and safety and modifying our policies and programs to ensure proper physical distancing practices can be maintained. Each of our Health & Fitness Centres has undergone thorough deep cleaning during our closure; we’re modifying spaces, access points, floor plans and traffic flow through our facilities and more.
Here are just a few of the safety measures you’ll see when you visit the Y:
- Glass barriers at Membership Desks
- Health screenings prior to entry
- Contactless scan-in stations
- Single one-way directional entry and exit
- Physical distancing measures to maintain 2 metres between other people
- Increased sanitization and disinfection
- Increased hand-sanitizing stations
- Controlled building access and class sizes to support physical distancing
We all have a shared responsibility to support the safety of ourselves and those around us as we continue to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
We want to remind all of our members that membership fees were put on hold when we announced our closing on March 16, 2020. Furthermore, we assure you we will not re-activate membership payments until such time as we have re-opened; you can keep your membership ON HOLD until you are ready to return. Our decision to delay is based on the timelines we are seeing in other provinces where YMCAs have re-opened or are planning to re-open.
Keep an eye out for emails from us, or visit us anytime at ymcaofniagara.org, or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter for the latest updates on our progress. Your health and wellness continues to be a priority for us and we are currently responding to this by offering a constant stream of new live videos.
Here are some of the initiatives we are offering to keep you engaged over the summer months:
- Adventure Day Camp (a new program for children 6 to 12 years of age who would benefit the most from an in person recreational experience. Children register for the program through several referring agencies)
- YCamp virtually for those at home
- YMCA at Home offers free fitness classes, wellness and family activities
- EarlyON virtual activities
- Virtual Employment and Immigrant Services
Please bookmark our website as we look to explore offering Outdoor Fitness Classes at some of our locations this summer.
“We want to be fully transparent as to the reason for our delay in re-opening. In addition to recalling staff, understanding the guidelines, training staff and finalizing our new safety protocols, learning from other YMCAs opening across the country and the time it takes to be prepared. We are also aware of the number of members who are ready to return to physical spaces for their health and fitness needs continues to be low as there is still some fear and anxiety. This places additional financial challenges upon our organization in supporting the full operational costs of running our YMCA facilities,” said Barber.
The YMCA of Niagara is a charity dedicated to helping communities connect, belong and thrive. The closure of our physical spaces, programs and services as a result of COVID-19 has come at a significant cost to our YMCA, just as it has for many businesses in our community and placed us in a financial position where we have to be extremely prudent to ensure we can continue to serve our members and communities for years to come.
We can’t wait to open the doors of our YMCA health, fitness and aquatic centres. Until then, Be Well, Be Safe and Stay Healthy!
Reactivation: We may not be open right now but we are taking steps!
Over the past few months our YMCA has worked alongside YMCAs from across Canada to develop a comprehensive Reactivation Plan.
This plan has been developed with partners in health, research and the private sector working alongside YMCA professionals from coast to coast.
We are in the process now of sharing this plan with our staff teams and working through staff training plans.
Our Number 1 Priority remains the Health and Safety of all staff, volunteers, families, members and community.
Above all, our Reactivation Plan features some revised and enhanced procedures designed to minimize the potential for virus transmission.
In all areas of our YMCA program and service delivery you can expect:
- Enhanced cleaning and disinfection procedures and tools
- Physical distancing measures
- Revised floor plans to create more space
- Refreshed daily schedules
- Touchless and paperless systems
- Daily wellness checks for everyone entering any facility
- The use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
We have taken a planful approach to do this well.
Reactivation: Our approach
We will apply a phased approach to reopening, by starting with specific programs and services in some areas. This will ensure safe delivery prior to opening more services.
Licensed Child Care is starting to prepare to reopen licensed Pre School centres. We have also sent communications to all of our currently registered Pre School families; additional information about licensed Child Care Services can be found here.
Our Health, Fitness and Aquatics operations cannot restart until after the province declares Phase Three of reopening. We will apply a phased approach to restarting our Health, Fitness and Aquatics programming as well. Moreover, we are also working closely with local public health authorities on our planning for each area of the YMCA.
Please stay tuned to our website and social media channels; we await future provincial announcements as we work through our YMCA Phase Three Reactivation Plans.
The YMCA Before and After Child Care families recently completed an online Intent/Inquiry form related to Child Care needs. The results have been applied to our Reactivation planning.
This summer, we are also exploring the possibility of delivering some outdoor fitness programming options; pending appropriate approvals with Public Health.
So, until we can meet again in person, thank you very much for your support!