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Paynesville Press - october 15, 2003

Summer recreation sees rise in participation

By Michael Jacobson

The declining student population in the elementary grades affects summer recreation programs through Community Education as well as the school district's overall enrollment.

Participation in the summer recreation programs run mainly in June and July is down from ten years ago, but the number of programs is up, and the number of participants the last two years is the most since 1996.

"We always want to get more people, but with the declining enrollment in the elementary, I'm happy to stay as high as we've been," said Matt Dickhausen, Paynesville's director of Community Education.

Summer recreation attracted 753 participants in 2003, just ten less than in 2002. That's the most participants in the program since 1996, when they had 824. The highest participation over the past ten years was in 1995, when the summer programs had 891 participants.

Back then, the summer recreation numbers were bolstered by large numbers in swimming lessons 214 in 1996, for instance. In 2003, however, swimming lessons participation dropped to 44. Community Education was able to offer only one time session last spring for swimming lessons at the pool in Rocori.

Another program that has lost numbers are computer classes. In 1994, 75 kids signed up for a computer class, but these classes were no longer offered after 2000 due to low numbers.

There's no secret to why these classes have lost their niche. "Everybody's got a computer at home now," said Dickhausen.

summer recreational chart Some summer recreation programs continue to hold steady, like youth baseball, which had 177 participants this summer, and summer theatre, which had 32 young actors and actresses this summer. Others have increased numbers in the past few years due to new coaches, like with softball and tennis, said Dickhausen.

The ball programs, in the last few years, have switched mostly to night practices and games and now rely on parent coaches.

A big boost to the participation numbers in recent years have been some additions, including church softball, which was the most popular summer recreation program this year with 180 participants.

Summer is the most intense time for Community Education programs, said Dickhausen. "One thing we really appreciate is the partnership with the city and the township, which really helps make this happen," he said.

Because most of the participation in the summer comes from the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township, these two governmental entities help subsidize the summer programs. In 2003, 43 percent of registrants were from the city, and 41 percent were from the township.

Revenues for summer recreation amounted to $10,469, while expenses totaled $21,719, meaning the city and township will each pay $5,625 to cover the programs.

Anyone with an idea for a summer recreation activity, or for a Community Education program, can either contact Dickhausen at 320-243-7570 or can contact any member of the Community Education advisory board: Jeff Bergman, Howard Caldwell, Janell Hoffman, Inez Jones, Gretchen O'Fallon, Jim Paster, Colleen Pelton, Sue Teicher, Jeff Thompson, and Dennis Zimmerman.

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