“This has been a trying time in all of our lives, and we are ready to do our part to keep the children and families of our community thriving,” said Chad Mussmon, the owner of brand new children’s activity space The Little Gym (625 Pennsylvania Ave. SE).
The Little Gym will begin to offer classes and day camps on site starting Monday, July 13. “We’re excited to open up and work through this time as safely as possible,” said Mussmon.
For the past 22 years, Mussmon operated three Little Gyms in Northern Virginia, where he and his spouse raised five kids themselves. Mussmon said he has wanted to open a space in the District for a long time. He finally succeeded in his search last year, and work began on The Little Gym Capitol Hill in January. Work was just winding down when COVID hit.
Gym Director Antonio Lytle remembers when the site was a McDonald’s restaurant and then a mattress store. He grew up in Southeast and worked with Mussmon at The Little Gym in Falls Church before coming back home to the Capitol Hill location. “[Antonio] said it’s kind of funny,” said Mussmon, “because he used to hang out at the McDonald’s as a kid, and now he’s back here.”
The Capitol Hill facility has been completely made over. There’s a main-floor gymnasium and upstairs multi-purpose room, both of which sat glistening and unused for four months. But a few weeks ago, Mussmon was able to re-open the facilities in Northern Virginia. “Once we had experience doing that, we were able to apply those lessons to our opening in the District.”
The Little Gym offers skill-building gymnastics lessons to students aged from 4 months to 12 years. Parent and me classes are offered to kids under 3. Independent classes are offered to kids aged 3 years and older. “We’re not a competitive facility, but we’re not a playplace, either –although there definitely is play,” said Mussmon. “We offer skill-based sessions in a very fun, confidence-building way.”
For now, Mussmon said, the focus is on day camps, with gymnastic classes on evenings and weekends. In the future, there are plans to offer ‘kindermusik’ music classes, as well as dance lessons in ballet, tap and hip-hop. “We’ll see what things look like in fall,” said Mussmon, pondering the uncertainties of 2020. “We hope to be a place where parents can depend on for extended care or during days off from school.”
The students who come for camp and class on July 13 will be the first to play in the brand-new sparkling space. Day camps are offered in morning (9 a.m. to noon), afternoon (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) or all-day blocks; evening class times vary.
Of course, there are modifications to the lesson model to keep everyone safe during the pandemic. The facility is operating at 30 percent capacity, with classes reduced in size from 20 to 9 students in independent sessions, and five students for parents and child classes. Everyone entering the building will have their temperature taken before admittance. All adults in the facility will be masked, and children will be encouraged to wear masks depending on ages. Children move through gymnastic stations as individuals, rather than in groups of three, and all stations (horse, mat, etc.) are spaced 10 feet apart.
The facility is following all guidance from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in sanitizing equipment, doors, bathrooms and surfaces, allowing 30 to 45 minutes between each session for deep cleaning. “We are doing whatever we can to adapt to current conditions to make it safe for everyone,” said Mussman.
A grand opening was initially planned for July 13, but was scaled-back due to COVID. But you can still meet the staff and learn more! Staff and teachers will be outside The Little Gym all day Monday to talk about the facility, offerings and safety. You can also get more information, see class schedules and schedule a tour of the facility by visiting www.thelittlegym.com, calling 202-450-1175 or sending an email to [email protected]