The Crookston Parks and Rec Board discussed plans Monday for youth sports programming this fall. The plans include skills and drills activities for football, volleyball and swimming.

Crookston Parks and Rec supervisor Scott Butt helped organize a plan for football and volleyball skills and drills, which have been modified to limit contact and will not include competition with other communities. Volleyball will be played outdoors on sand at the Crookston Sports Center, while football activities will be held at the Crookston High School practice fields. The activities are open for youth in grades 3-6. Butt said the programs will start September 14, and run for six weeks. One question that still needs answering is how these programs will be staffed. Butt says varsity football and volleyball practice this fall will make staffing difficult.

“We usually try and get some adults to help, and a lot of times we’ll use our varsity football players,” Butt said. “There could be some conflicts, because of the 12 practices (Crookston High) is going to get for varsity football, so I’m not sure how many of the players will be available, depending on when he have varsity football practice. So, we’ll probably be looking for a lot of volunteers for both football and volleyball.”

Youth in 3rd and 4th grade will practice from 5:30-6:30 p.m., while 5th and 6th graders will go from 7-8 p.m. Participants will have their temperatures checked in between practices, and there will be no spectators. Masks will be worn by participants only when they’re rotating stations, and they’re encouraged to be worn upon arrival.

As for swimming, Crookston Pool manager Cody Brekken proposed a new ‘Parent-and-Me Class,” which are swimming lessons for youth ages six months – four years. Every kid who participates would be accompanied by a parent in the pool. The class would start on September 14, and run every Monday at 10:30 a.m. for six weeks.

Brekken also proposed abbreviated group swimming lessons to make up for lost time, since the pool didn’t open until July 20. The group lessons will be on Mondays and Fridays from 6:15 – 7 p.m. over a four-week period. Every age group will have their lessons together, with roughly five kids in each group.

Brekken says offering swimming lessons in the fall is unusual, but with so many other activities on hold, the opportunity presented itself.

“We usually never do swimming lessons at this time, because there are so many other fall activities,” Brekken said. “But, with the pool being open, we can definitely provide something for the fall. We’ll have workers available to teach, which usually at this time (of year) we wouldn’t, but we wanted to utilize that and play a little catch-up. The parent-and-me class is brand new. I’m pretty confident about that one. I’ve got curriculum for it.”

Crookston Parks and Rec director Scott Riopelle said making these programs available for area youth during this difficult year was a top priority.

“We want to make sure we have something available for all of the kids to participate in,” Riopelle said. “This fall, we have been able to come up with some options. Most of it being outside, which helps us, because that also helps us with sanitizing.”

Elsewhere, the Crookston Blue Line Club has asked that the Crookston Sports Center be back open with ice by September 14 for hockey skills and drills. The Park Board motioned Monday that the Blue Line Club must first come up with a preparedness plan in the event that someone gets sick with COVID-19. The Club also must come up with a list of members who are willing to help with testing, supervision and other tasks needed to make such programming possible. Much like the  football and volleyball programs, Riopelle said staffing for hockey activities this fall is a concern.

“We did not hire a lot of people to help us through the summer months,” Riopelle said. “It was all full-time staff doing everything at the park shop. We still have the 300-plus acres to care for. So, we will have to bring in three of the six full-time employees to the rink once we start making ice. We cover (the ice) 16 hours a day, seven days a week, and (the ice) costs money, whether we’re open or not.”

Riopelle says it costs about $5,000 per week to maintain ice at the Sports Center, with the Blue Line Club covering about $2,250 of that weekly cost.

Crookston Blue Line Club president Wes Colborn was at Monday’s meeting. He said club members are willing to do whatever it takes to get their kids on the ice practicing.

“We’re willing to help out,” Colborn said. “Do temperature checks, and all of those things. We have two arena employees on the Blue Line Club. We’re even willing to help put the ice in and to get the ice in earlier if there’s a way to work that out. We know we won’t be able to run tournaments this fall. We just want to get these boys and girls on the ice skating. Everything will be supervised There’ll be no open skate. No open hockey. We’ll be able to control numbers of kids going in and out.”

The Blue Line Club intends to use the Sports Center Sunday through Thursday for three weeks for skills and drills programs, starting September 14. Once the ice is ready, there will be a number of social distancing measures in place. On top of temperature checks, masks will be required for entry, and only two pods of 25 players will be allowed on the ice at once. Parents and participants are also asked not to congregate inside the arena once practice is concluded. Kids will also be asked to arrive already dressed in uniform.

Riopelle added that the city of Crookston reserves the right to shut down the Sports Center if there were a COVID-19 outbreak in the area. If an outbreak occurred, Polk County Public Health would help coordinate contact tracing.