By the time the summer camp 2020 season arrives, many parents and children will have been cooped up in social distancing and self-isolation for months. The open-aired freedom of your program is a welcome dream for stir-crazy camp families. We all hope it can become a reality, too.
Camp is the perfect environment for children to recover from a stressful event like a pandemic. This is why camp directors nationwide are so hopeful that the 2020 summer camp season can be salvaged—not just for valid financial concerns, but to heal us all with the magic of these programs. Cancellations and closures would be heartbreaking.
There’s wisdom in that old saying—hope for the best and prepare for the worst. So press on, control what you can control, and get ready for the summer 2020 season as best you can.
Here are a few ways to get ahead of COVID-19’s impact on summer camp 2020:
- Overcommunicate with your campers. Anxieties are running high with all of the uncertainties surrounding the pandemic. The best thing you can do is be transparent, calm, and reassuring. Communicate frequently with updated information on where your program stands, how you’re preparing, and what to expect if things change.
- Consider pushing back your start date by several weeks. If, as some experts predict, social distancing flattens the curve and the virus dies out in the summer heat, you may save your 2020 summer camp season by delaying it a bit. This has logistical challenges, but it’s much better than the alternative—last-minute notices and refunds if you have to shut down.
- Have a refund plan in place. Families will appreciate the option to make their own decision about the safety of their child(ren). Be very clear on your deadline for camp families to voluntarily cancel for a full refund—and encourage them to follow your lead for guidance on whether this is necessary. If you must close the camp, have a tested procedure in place to make families whole.
- Access relevant resources for guidance. The CDC and ACA both maintain helpful libraries of information and resources to educate the public on the disease (and what to do about it). Check-in with their website regularly as new information becomes available. Share it with your community and use it to guide your decisions.
- Review plans put in place by the Association of Camp Nurses (ACN). Infection with COVID-19 will remain a threat, both in reality and in the public consciousness, by summertime. Follow the advice of camp medical professionals on steps to take if this were to occur at summer camp.
- Prepare to screen children arriving at camp. At a minimum, each camper (and their parents) should be asked how they’re feeling, if there’s any risk that they’ve been exposed in the past several weeks, and whether they’ve been treated for illness lately.
- Hygiene, sanitation, and social distancing practices. Prepare everyone for effective handwashing with pre-emptive messages and provide the necessary means to handle it at camp—frequently. If bathrooms and sinks are not always accessible, it will be critical to have pump dispensers of hand sanitizer around camp for both staff and children. Campers should sleep at least arm’s length away from others, and be placed head-to-foot in bunks or tents.
These and other risk reduction or social distancing strategies can help your summer camp to stay proactive about the threat of COVID-19. And remember, you’re not alone—all of your loyal families are rooting for the 2020 summer camp season to be a success. It’s worth the effort to take action right away.