Since March 2021, more than 100 families have asked about the city of Menlo Park's plans for its gymnastics program. Those families, it appears, will have to wait a while longer for answers.
A proposal to reactivate Menlo Park's well-known city-run gymnastics program was paused Tuesday after City Council members raised concerns that now was an inopportune time to relaunch the program because of the threat of the COVID-19 delta variant.
Because the program serves youth, including those for whom COVID-19 vaccines are not yet available, it would mean that reactivating the program would encourage unvaccinated children to exercise indoors together.
In a typical year, the program serves about 1,500 children, and about 50 children per day. On average, 55% of the children who participate are Menlo Park residents, according to city staff.
Council members acknowledged that the news might be hard to hear for families who are eager to get their kids back to "normal" activities.
"To community members who are cooped up ... we get it," Councilwoman Jen Wolosin said. "... It's our job to try not to act emotionally and act rationally. This may not land wonderfully in the community, and we understand that."
As part of a plan to phase a gymnastics program back in for Menlo Park, city staff had recommended that the council look to restart the program in November, authorize 5.75 full-time employees to run the program and plan for roughly $767,000 in expenses and $450,000 in revenues for the program during the 2021-22 fiscal year.
The proposed plan was to start in November with offering the gymnastics program to young children and individuals with special needs on weekdays, as well as to children of all ages and abilities, and then expand in January 2022 to operate on weekday evenings with competitive and adult programs. Finally, in March 2022, it would expand to provide weekend programs and facility rentals.
Mayor Drew Combs said in an interview that he planned to check back with the City Manager on the matter around early to mid-December, and that the topic would next return to the City Council with a new mayor. By then, he said, there will be about a semester's worth of data about COVID-19 transmission rates in schools and there's a possibility that by then some children in the 5- to 11-year-old range may have had the chance to be vaccinated, based on reports this week that trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine among children in that age group showed promising results.