Expo touts latest academy offerings

Class instructor Heath Davenport, left, of the Village of St. James, watches Kendra Fillingham, of the Village Mira Mesa, practice snorkeling during an Enrichment Academy class.

The Enrichment Academy’s semiannual Learn & Grow Expo is today, when people can learn about fall/winter classes. The modified expo will be from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. at Lake Miona Recreation Center. Like everything else in 2020, this expo will be different from expos in the past, but people still will find out about interesting courses to enrich their lives. “It’s a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the program, course offerings and answer any questions you have from our Recreation and Parks team,” said Melanie Sarakinis, recreation manager who oversees the academy for The Villages Recreation and Parks Department.

“New course offerings and new instructors are always an exciting addition to the program. We are happy to welcome nine new instructors and endless new courses in a variety of categories.”

Attendees were asked to sign up for a time slot so staff can monitor attendance and enable social distancing in accordance with health and safety guidelines.

People may still sign up at districtgov.org or at their nearest regional recreation center.  

Admission is still free for the expo, which is open to both residents and the public.

Subscribers to The Villages Daily Sun received the new catalog inside their newspapers Wednesday. The catalog also is available online, and starting today at regional recreation centers and, of course, at the expo.

At the expo, Recreation and Parks Department staff will answer questions about the new course schedule and assist students, but instructors will not be present.

About 290 courses will be offered with limited capacity for the fall/winter semester.

As the recreation department prepares to phase in programming opportunities, the Enrichment Academy courses will limit capacity and availability following health and safety guidelines, Sarakinis said.

Staff at the expo can help people learn how to register for courses, which they may do online, at regional recreation centers or by mail to 984 Old Mill Run, The Villages, FL 32162.

Registration for courses will start at 8:30 a.m. Friday for residents. Course registration for the general public will begin at 8:30 a.m. Monday.

The academy also has a new and improved webpage that can be found at districtgov.org.

“The new webpage has all the information you need to learn about the program,” Sarakinis said. “Check out instructor biographies, speaker events, automated forms, surveys and much more through our new webpage.”

The District encourages online registration. For people still uncomfortable with their computers, the academy offers 19 technology classes, from how to use Windows and other Microsoft programs to how to use Apple devices. Classes can teach students how to organize their sheet music and photos and other computer uses.

“One thing to look forward to this coming fall/winter is a wide variety of new courses,” said Amanda Brooks, staff assistant with the Enrichment Academy. “History courses are very popular this semester, in addition to a new gardening category and aquatic offerings. Our community is excited to get back out there and learn about a new topic or skill.” 

Of course, classes in swimming, physical fitness, philosophy, writing, art, crafts, music, dance, travel, literature, science, photography, health and wellness and foreign languages are among subjects still offered.

The academy courses will include more social distancing than before the pandemic, and the District has been cleaning tables and other surfaces thoroughly between each group.

It also has been reminding people who use recreation centers of tips to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Masks are requested for all District facilities — indoors and outdoors — and required when people are less than 6 feet apart.  People are reminded to wash their hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or longer. They should cover their coughs or sneezes with a tissue and then throw that tissue in the trash. People should avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth. They should also stay at least 6 feet apart, almost the length of a shuffleboard cue and farther than the length of a billiards cue, pool noodle or golf club.

And, of course, anyone who feels sick, has a fever, cough or shortness of breath, or who was recently exposed to COVID-19 should stay home and not enter any District facility until they have a doctor’s clearance.

But those who feel fine can come join the fun and learning.

Staff writer Dayna Straehley can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5408, or dayna.straehley@thevillagesmedia.com.