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Although it may seem early to start thinking about summer camp, many camp directors recommend searching and registering extra early this year since space may be limited due to COVID. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to know what summer 2021 will bring in terms of COVID, but we do know that although camp looked different this summer, camps can safely operate during a pandemic if certain protocols are put in place,” says Susie Lupert, Executive Director of the American Camp Association, NY and NJ.

PLAN AHEAD

While it may seem strange to think about summer camp around the holidays, Lupert says it makes sense to start planning now while last summer is somewhat fresh in your child’s mind. “This year more than any year before, planning early is important,”

she says. “Some day camps may have a restriction on how many campers they can accommodate if they will be using small cohorts again like they did last summer. For overnight camp, you have to consider bunking. Will there be a limit on the number of children overnight camps will be able to have in a bunk? If so, there may not be as much space at camps than in the past so reaching out to overnight camps you’re interested in now would be a good idea.”

“Parents whose kids were enrolled in camp last summer should speak to their directors about early enrollment and find out what they need to do to secure space in case capacity is limited once again,” says Sam Borek, owner and co-director of Woodmont Day Camp in Rockland County, NY.

“New parents or parents who did not send their campers last summer should speak to camp directors to understand the protocols that were put in place and refund policies. “

TAKE A TOUR

“COVID is certainly making everything difficult, including the ways parents research a camp,” says Lupert. “As we get into the winter months, overnight camp directors are happy to schedule Zoom calls in place of a home visit. Day camp directors tour throughout the winter so if you are looking for a day camp, bundle up and check it out. We will also be offering virtual camp fairs this winter, allowing parents to talk to numerous directors in a short amount of time.”

COVID RISKS

Of course, no one can say for sure where the country will be by next summer, but one thing you can count on is that camps will be working overtime to ensure the safety of all staff and campers.

Last year, Lupert says it wasn’t one protocol alone that prevented the spread of COVID at both day and overnight camps. Twelve camps reported cases to the DOH but they were quickly contained, according to a representative from the American Camp Association. “But that is out of over 1,000 licensed summer camps,” said the representative. “Only four of those camps were ACA-accredited. “

“Unfortunately, there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of COVID anywhere, but camps were able to mitigate the risks with a number of protocols to run safe programs,” says Lupert. “New Jersey day camps implemented temperature checks, health screenings, frequent hand washing and sanitizing, no field trips and cohorts of campers, among other safety measures. Our overnight camps that were able to operate used methods such as having campers quarantine for 14 days before going to camp, getting a COVID test at home and then again at camp, daily temperature checks, more outside time, and staggered dining times amongst many more protocols.”

“We implemented numerous protocols to provide for the safety of our campers and staff and thankfully, there were no COVID cases at camp,” says Wendy Saiff, owner and director of Willow Lake Day Camp in Lake Hopatcong. “Our enrollment for 2021 is about 85 percent full.”

A SIMPLER KIND OF FUN

“Campers and staff were thrilled to be outside and socializing and quickly adjusted to any of the changes that we had to implement including limited indoor activities and staff in face coverings,” says Borek. “The joy that came from the simple activities of sitting and talking during lunch (six feet apart), or participating in sports and arts was heightened because of the quarantine.”

Adds Saiff: “It may be that summer 2021 will be similar to summer 2020 but our parents and campers who were with us last summer will attest that summer 2020 was indeed awesome.”

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