The magic of summer camp can still be a part of children’s lives this year as many day camps will open, though with strict guidelines for staff and campers.
“Summer camp is summer camp. It may look different but the fun that we’re going to have,” said Carolyn Daniels, camp director of Mountain Mist Day Camp, which is run by the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA. “The laughter that we’re going to have. The experiences, the friendships.”
Many of the safety guidelines were set by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood and the state of Connecticut.
“We’re still digesting some of the guidelines but we know small groups — groups of 10 kids max per counselor,” said Justin Hubeny, camp director of the Southington YMCA’s Camp Sloper. “They have to be distanced with one another. Handwashing before and after activities. Things like that. Staff members have to wear masks. Now the challenge is putting a program into place and that’s what we’re working on right now.”
At Camp Sloper and Mountain Mist Day Camp, campers do not have to wear face masks, but the counselors are required to wear them while working.
“I joked with my camp staff to say that you’re going to have a mask tan today,” said John Benigni, the CEO of the Meriden-New Britain-Berlin YMCA. “It won’t be just sunglasses, you’ll have a tan with a face of a mask.”
At both day camps at the Boys & Girls Club of Meriden, kids are recommended, but not required to wear masks, according to Executive Director Larue Graham. Staff, however, are required to wear a mask.
The camps will also not allow these smaller groups of children to come in contact with each other.
“The guidelines are that we have two counselors for every 10 children or less,” Daniels said. “We need to socially distance those 10 children from other groups and we have about 50 to 70 feet in between each of our campsites, so they will actually have a homebase campsite that they will be at everyday with their counselors.”
Equipment will be used only within these groups of 10 or individually. At the Boys & Girls Club, art supplies will be provided to each individual camper.
“As far as art supplies, things like pencils, crayons, magic markers, things like that that the kids use on a daily basis, we’re actually going to buy each individual kid their own set that they’ll keep in a larger bookcase,” Graham said. “That way, they’re the only ones that are physically touching it and then we will disinfect the case to ensure that no germs are being transferred.”
Daily temperature checks will also take place at these camps to ensure any potential COVID-19 symptoms are caught early on. Both Mountain Mist and the two camps at the Boys & Girls Club will have a designated spot for campers with COVID-like symptoms.
“That’s where they’ll go and obviously we will contact the parents and the necessary authorities,” Benigni said.
While the protocols will change the experience, camps are looking forward to the summer.
“We’re just excited to have some normalcy back out here at Sloper and have smiling faces and kids here,” Hubeny said. “That’s really what I am excited about for sure.”