Re-opening playgrounds and community centers in Charleston

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CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – Outdoor activities in the Mountain State have slowly re-opened in recent months; and here in Charleston, parks, trails, and now playgrounds have re-opened.

But re-opening the playgrounds took awhile.

“About six weeks ago, seven weeks ago, we were ready to re-open the rec centers and ready to re-open the playgrounds,” said Matthew Sutton, Chief of Staff for the City of Charleston. “And then we had our spike in Kanawha County.”

The playgrounds are still open, for now.

“Really what’s left now are our rec centers,” said Sutton. “How do we open those in a safe way.”

The first day of school is right around the corner for Charleston students. 

“We have been working with a few after school programs, and our parks and rec system, to see how can we re-open the centers for after school and to help with e-learning,” said Sutton.

“With so many parents wanting virtual and e-learning,” said Amanda Walker, a mother of three, “My concern is why would we want to open the community centers to put them back into that situation that we’re trying to pull them out of?”

One of Walker’s three kids has a compromised immune system.

She understands there are children who need access to free internet, but; “We’ve had months to prepare for this and haven’t done so. So here we are,” she said.

The biggest obstacle the city faces in making any of these decisions – the level of uncertainty the pandemic brings.

“It seems like every time we take one step forward, things start to happen and we have to go back to the plate and figure something out,” said Sutton.

Especially after West Virginia’s first diagnosed case of ‘Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children’ – a new byproduct being found in children exposed to COVID-19.

“The news of our first MIS-C child here in West Virginia, has everybody back to saying ‘let’s make sure we do this safely,’” said Sutton.

Schools here in the Capitol City are set to start September 8th.

The city says they will find a safe way to open the centers by that time, so that Charleston students can get free internet access somewhere.

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