Keeping club members safe

The Ontario Boys & Girls Club, as seen on Tuesday. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, a local club leader explains measures in place to keep club members and staff safe.


It’s never fun for families when a child comes home with a fever, but with COVID-19 having turned life upside down it can make such occurrences feel worse. With that in mind, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Western Treasure Valley continue to take steps to keep participation up while preventing them from getting sick.

Executive Director Dana Castellani explained the extent of the clubs’ efforts to date in an email dated Oct. 8. According to Castellani, there’s still plenty of company despite a decrease in participants at the Payette clubhouse.

“After a successful summer program, both Clubs reopened on Aug. 24 for after-school programming,” wrote Castellani. “Payette has 30 to 40 kids attending daily. We offer extended hours there on Friday since Payette [School District] has moved to a 4-day week. We are still trying to maintain stable cohort groups. In Ontario, we have been open from 7:45 to 5:30 and spend the mornings and early afternoons supporting kids with their distance learning. We have about 50 to 60 kids attending daily there.”

Castellani reports groups at both clubhouses are capped at 15, and notes that the two clubs are operating two very different schedules.

“In Ontario we can now have stable groups of 15, but this still means kids stay with their staff members and classrooms — they do not rotate through program rooms like they used to. We have hired extra staff, mostly due to being open for nearly 10 hours a day as opposed to 4 hours. The Ontario School District has also provided staff support during the virtual school hours to help kids with the technology and be able to better assist with the actual school work.”

Despite not being required by Payette County officials, masks are required at Payette as well as in Ontario.

“Staff started wearing masks in July, and by August all Club members were required to wear them too, as per our organizational policy.”

When club members arrive, they go through a brief health check outside the club before being checked in. Once inside, hand hygiene and distancing is reinforced throughout their days.

“We have added hand-washing breaks into our daily routine (we go through a lot more soap and paper towels!); staff members have marked off tables and walls to maintain physical distancing. We also place the table and chairs strategically. There was also a lot of ‘reminding’ in the beginning until everyone got used to the new procedures.”

Castellani said several positive cases among staff members in early July triggered the mask requirement at both clubhouses, and one staff member in Payette has since tested positive as well.

“So far, no club members have tested positive,” she reported.

As the situation surrounding the pandemic remains fluid, Castellani said she and her staff are going with its flow.

“As a Boys & Girls Club, our leadership team and Board are constantly receiving the most up-to-date information, and we also have club resources available in two states. Boys & Girls Clubs of America has national staff members available for any questions regarding safety and best practices. Every week I participate in Oregon and Idaho Club CEO calls to learn and share information. This has really helped us stay up-to-date and feel confident in the work we do.”

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