Hello Skating families! Many of us are terribly disappointed that COVID outbreaks among hockey programs has caused the rinks to close for all of us. Our program directors and some parents may wish to advocate re-opening the rinks for learn-to-skate and figure skating. Following is the letter we have used to email the governor’s office. Please feel free to use it as a template for your own communication. You can also contact the governor’s office by phone at (617) 725-4005.
Dear Governor Baker,
I am writing to you regarding the closure of ice rinks in Massachusetts on October 22, 2020, on behalf of learn-to-skate and figure skating programs.
As residents and as parents, the safety of our skaters and families is absolutely paramount. We recognize the increased risk of indoor activities in the spread of COVID-19, especially when it comes to team sports with close contact and heavy exertion such as hockey.
However, we respectfully insist that closing the rinks because of hockey-based outbreaks is painting too many kids with too broad a brush. Many different groups use the ice rinks and do not have the same risk profile as hockey.
Our learn-to-skate and figure skating participants of all ages use the ice and the rink in a completely different – and much lower-risk – manner than hockey teams. As an individual sport, our skaters are much more able to keep appropriate distance from one another. Skaters and coaches consistently wear masks for the entirety of their time in the building. We are not producing any performances or competitions, so there are no spectators in the stands during our lessons and practice sessions. Our skaters do not have any gear to put on or take off, so they are not using the locker rooms.
The data cites 30 outbreaks connected to hockey in Massachusetts, and we agree wholeheartedly that steps should be taken to mitigate those risks. Again, the health and safety of our skaters and families is the top concern. However, none of those outbreaks have been connected with learn-to-skate or figure skating organizations or gatherings.
We have witnessed, at numerous rinks across the state, vast differences in adherence to safety protocols between hockey programs and learn-to-skate/figure skating. While our learn-to-skate groups have been cut in half to reduce capacity and every participant wears a mask from the four-year-old new skater to the experienced coaches, we see full hockey teams barging into the rink with few to no masks and absolutely zero regard for social distancing. From peewee leagues to high school and hockey teams, it remains the same: many to most of the kids and parents unmasked and virtually no supervision or enforcement from the coaching staff or administration.
We as an organization and as individuals fully support efforts to keep our communities as safe as possible during the pandemic. Like anyone else, we are constantly making risk/benefit choices in our lives to keep ourselves and our families healthy. But figure skating and learn-to-skate provides a critical outlet for physical and even mental health for our skaters, not to mention livelihood for our coaches, and we are able to do so in a way that keeps the risks much lower than our hockey colleagues.
Please do not punish all programs and skaters, when the clear risk is from hockey and not figure skating. Please allow the rinks to remain open for learn-to-skate and figure skating programs.
Co-Director, Burlington Skating
Member Parent, Winchester Figure Skating Club