As schools start winding down, summer camps are evaluating if they'll be able to operate. While some have decided to shut down, others feel an obligation to open their doors to children this summer.
"We understand the importance of child care for parents that are working. We understand the mental health issues and if children get to be in their normal activities around their friends, especially around the outdoors,” said YMCA of the USA's Chief Operating Officer Paul McEntire. “Doing a lot of physical activity, that’s just great for our young people.”
YMCA of the USA has partnered with the American Camping Association and hired an environmental health engineering firm to help guide local YMCAs through the process of reopening and operating summer camps.
"How are the beds set up? How far apart are they? How do the kids sleep? How are the meals served? Most camps do family service of meals, so a couple kids from each table in a very crowded room go up and get food and go and bring it back. All of those don’t make sense in today’s world," said McEntire.
The YMCA hosts millions of children at overnight camps and millions more at day camps. YMCA officials know not all camps will reopen, but the ones that do will look different this year. There will be greater social distancing, children will be kept with one set counselor during the day, and camps will amp up sanitizing.
"There are programs like an archery program where, literally, you’ll have to clean the bows and the arrows between every two groups. Are there ways of interacting that need to be adjusted?" said McEntire.
Code Ninjas in Colliersville, Tennessee--a stem after-school and summer program that focuses on video game coding and other computer science education—is preparing to reopen for the summer camps after having to shut down in mid-March. All employees will be wearing masks and social distancing.
"We're going to be doing temperature checks for all employees and students as they come through the center and anyone who is above CDC recommended temperature is not going to be allowed to enter," said camp co-owner Brandon Aycock.
Aycock says they're even adjusting their curriculum to maintain an increased distance during summer camp. He says usually their instructors, or senseis as they call them, come in close contact with students, helping them with projects throughout the day. All of that is changing.
"We’re actually implementing Zoom, even within our center, in order to allow our senseis to see the student's screen and still address whatever issue they may have in their instruction remotely, while maintaining the appropriate protocols," explained Aycock.
Both programs say they realize not all parents will feel comfortable bringing their children to summer camp over the next few weeks, but they're making changes in an effort to keep everyone safe.