Written and Shared at 2022 FCSN Gala by Jake Haw, South Bay Program Coordinator
The moment has finally arrived. After more than two years since the Shelter-in-Place order was instated, FCSN fully reopened on May 2, 2022.
Clients and parents have some mixed feelings: clients are excited that they can finally talk, tell stories and laugh with their friends like they used to, and parents are relieved to alleviate the stress of their loved ones; however, since the pandemic is not yet over, a few families have health and safety concerns. These clients remain with virtual learning.
For the first time in a very long time, the clients arrived at the center. They were met by a new fence set up by FCSN South Bay, which covers the back doors to close that area to the public. Colorful flags, balloons, and safety posters adorned the center. Clients and staff have learned to routinely check their temperatures before entering the building. They also clean the tables and other potentially infected surfaces. The staff adopted a safer work style that maintained the quality of activities. Clients, parents, and staff alike enforced the new safety protocols.
Some of the clients had already been going to the center for two days a week (FCSN partially reopened on 7/19/2021), and others were there for the first time. Many had to get up to speed with the rules and expectations of the program. Some were unsure if masks would be worn at all times, especially for those who had difficulty keeping the masks on. Others wondered how to maintain social distancing and how to support those with difficult behaviors.
Clients who had trouble keeping their masks on were given constant reminders and face shields. The clients were also given time to remove their masks during meals and when outside. This way, they could get a breather before putting their masks back on as they went indoors. Clients and staff reminded those who got too close to each other to maintain social distance and follow the rules. Regular training and discussion on how to give the best support to those who have the most difficult behaviors are integral to recognizing the onset of the behaviors before they happen.
Everyone worked hard to ensure that the process would go smoothly. Despite these worries, many clients have exceeded expectations and kept the masks on, maintained safe distances from each other, restrained their high fives, and even volunteered to help with cleaning. This became the new normal for them, and everyone is happy to be in the facility again.
This allowed the program to slowly reintroduce outdoor activities to the clients. First, the clients went over across the street to Bascom gym during the springtime to practice safely crossing the street and to play some basketball. Then, the clients were able to go to Edith Morley Park to help out with gardening in Campbell and to Meals on Wheels to deliver food to the elderly. Then the clients also went to the Bascom library to help clean and organize the shelves and then read books in their free time. Last but not least, on one summertime Friday, the clients were treated to a small Barbeque Party at a nearby park. The clients were able to play outdoor games and eat burgers, hotdogs, and chips. Everyone had fun relaxing outdoors, and some of the clients expressed that they didn’t think they would be able to experience the outdoors like that again for a long time.
Although our facility is open five days a week, our program is not yet perfect. The constant worry of getting infected with COVID-19 keeps everyone on their toes. As we slowly bring back our clients’ beloved programs, we must remember that – without our resilience – there wouldn’t be any progress. From everyone at FCSN South Bay to the FCSN East Bay, and to the various programs, members, family, staff, organizers, and board members alike, thank you for bearing with us as we try to make our program as safe as possible for many more years to come.