News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

SPRD is restructuring in time of change

Faced with a radically altered programming landscape and a significant revenue squeeze thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sisters Park & Recreation District (SPRD) is restructuring and streamlining.

SPRD approved a $1.567 million budget for the 2020/21 fiscal year on May 12. According to Executive Director Jennifer Holland, that budget reflects reductions in overhead and anticipates a drop in program revenue and collected property taxes.

“A conservative approach is how the district will remain stable in these uncertain times,” Executive Director Jennifer Holland told The Nugget.

SPRD stopped all programs and in-person service on March 16 in compliance with Governor Kate Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” executive order. Staff was laid off .

“We weren’t sure if it was going to be a few weeks or a few months,” Holland said. “We quickly realized that this wasn’t going to be a short-turnaround situation.”

SPRD had been gearing up for an expansion of programs and now is looking at reductions. That meant that SPRD had to restructure staffing and reduce overhead over the long-term. Two positions, the program director position held by Chad Rush and the events coordinator position held by Shannon Rackowski have been eliminated. Other positions have been restructured to focus less on administrative tasks and program development and more on front-line delivery of services.

Because SPRD is a public agency, those who hold positions that have fundamentally changed must reapply for the revised position in an open hiring process. Holland said she expects that positions will begin to be posted in June.

Holland expressed gratitude for the response of the community and everybody involved in a very tough situation.

“Everybody has been very respectful of the decisions SPRD has had to make,” she said. “There’s been a lot of compassion and grace from the community. All the folks that were affected by this — they all understand.”

Core programming focuses will be on childcare, day camps and after-school programming. Recreation coordinator Jason Huber has been working half-time to develop a framework for recovery.

Holland said that she expects SPRD to have something to offer in the way of kid-care programs by June 22.

She said that parents — many of whom have been trying to juggle work and homeschooling with restless kids — “were all very excited when we opened summer camp registration.”

Everyone recognizes that what summer camps may look like is still an evolving question — and there are sure to be limitations created by restrictions on the numbers of students. State guidance requires stable groups of 10 for summer camp activities, with social distancing protocols in place, which may limit what can be done where. Transportation of small groups may become an issue.

“My feeling is that we will have to not offer any field trips this season,” Holland said.

“We have to comply with that (state guidance),” Holland emphasized. “If we can’t meet protocols, we can’t do programs. We’ll have all that protocol laid out prior to the camp.”

Holland noted that preschool teachers’ positions did not fundamentally change and they don’t have to reapply.

“Those people will be recalled when the District is in a position to need their services again, or their employment,” Holland said.

Holland noted that the District will continue to deliver on commitments made to voters who recently approved local option funding for the District, including providing after-school programs and maintenance of the physical plant.

The coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing effort to quell the spread of COVID-19 have forced SPRD, like virtually every other entity in Sisters, to adapt and make hard choices.

Fundamentally, Holland said, the SPRD is forced to take “a conservative approach so that there is a District to come back to.”

Author Bio

Jim Cornelius, Editor in Chief

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Jim Cornelius is editor in chief of The Nugget and author of “Warriors of the Wildlands: True Tales of the Frontier Partisans.” A history buff, he explores frontier history across three centuries and several continents on his podcast, The Frontier Partisans. For more information visit


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