CORONAVIRUS

Youth summer activities in Iowa taking a hit with coronavirus pandemic

Many recreational and educational programs are in a wait-and-see mode

Youth soccer and spring are usually synomous. But this year has been different. Now summer sports are all taking a wait
Youth soccer and spring are usually synomous. But this year has been different. Now summer sports are all taking a wait and see approach to the pandemic. (Dreamstime/TNS)

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa City took the big step Monday when it announced, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, its Parks and Recreation Department was not allowing any organized group sports or rentals of any of its athletics fields until mid-August at the earliest.

That ended hopes of any sort of summer baseball, softball or soccer leagues.

Surrounding communities haven’t taken that drastic of a step ... yet.

“We haven’t canceled anything past May,” Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Director Scott Hock said Monday. “We are thinking about a month out through all of this. It’s pretty clear nothing will happen in May. Then it will be, OK, how are things looking after that?”

North Liberty and Marion have similar plans. North Liberty’s Parks and Recreation Department said on its website that all activity through May has been canceled.

Marion Parks and Recreation Department Deputy Directory Seth Staashelm said, like Cedar Rapids and North Liberty, its decision-making process for its programs also is an ongoing thing.

“We are doing everything on a two-week monthly basis,” Staashelm said. “Right now, everything is canceled through middle-May. Toward the end of the month, then we will be evaluating again. We are trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves.”

The Cedar Hills Booster Club in Cedar Rapids recently announced it was canceling its baseball and softball seasons.

“We tried everything we could to make this work,” CBHC President Stacy Olson said on the group’s Facebook page. “But it’s all working against us.”

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Yet another popular summer baseball youth program, the Hiawatha Kids League, still is in a wait-and-see mode. Though Commissioner Rick Sizemore admitted things look very bleak.

“We are still hopeful,” he said. “But, to be honest, I think it’s about 95 percent that our season will be canceled.”

Sizemore said if the overall COVID picture improves, his league could theoretically begin on June 1 and have an abbreviated season. But he’s doubtful that will happen. Some sort of final decision will be made by May 18.

“To be honest, I don’t see it,” he said. “It’s sad. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and we’ve never, ever had to cancel a season before. It’s hard on everybody: us, the parents, the coaches, the players.”

It’s not just recreation activities that are potentially being taken out of the equation for kids this summer.

The Grant Wood AEA has a highly popular College For Kids program for middle-school youths that offers advanced-level and fine arts courses for “eligible talented and gifted students.” College For Kids is conducted in two sessions: one for 12 days toward the end of June and the other for 12 days in July.

“Grant Wood AEA is closely watching the situation with the COVID-19 virus, and the public health guidance for group gatherings,” GWAEA Communications Director Renee Nelson said. “We anticipate providing an additional update about our summer plans for College For Kids in early May.”

Kirkwood Community College’s Camps For Kids (KICK) is scheduled to run June through August for youths ages 8-15 at its main campus, the Linn County Regional Center in Hiawatha and the Kirkwood Regional Center at the University of Iowa, which is located in Coralville.

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KICK offers more than 180 total camps to introduce area children to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) careers.

“Kirkwood is set to launch KICK in a normal face-to-face environment, but we’re prepared to make the temporary transition to virtual programming if necessary due to COVID-19,” said Program Developer Amanda Weeks. “Whatever the format, we’re excited to offer these great opportunities to learn and have fun. A good portion of our programming focuses on STEM education because much of the economy, and our general well-being, is backed by science, technology, engineering, and math.”

Kirkwood said some of the camps preparing to go virtual, if need be, are “Battle Royale: Make Your First ‘Fortnite’-Style Video Game,” “Brain Challenges,” “Code Creators: Game Design and Python Multiplayer Adventures,” “eSports Apprentice – YouTube Streamers and Gamers,” “Roblox: Makers-Coders-Entrepreneurs!,” and “Virtual Reality.”

“As a parent myself, I know you only have so many activities you can do for your kids at home,” said Justin Hoehn, associate director of marketing at Kirkwood. “We are hoping this can help give kids an opportunity in an organized educational setting.”

Comments: (319) 398-8259; jeff.johnson@thegazette.com

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