Virtual options abound, and camps that are offering on-site programs have made some big changes in how they will operate. Here is an update on camps we listed in our March issue, before Arizona — and most of the U.S. — went into lockdown.
Toward the end of April, Raising Arizona Kids conducted a poll asking parents how they felt about sending kids to camp. Only a third of 300 respondents at that time felt fully confident that they would.
It was, in reality, a hypothetical question. No one knew, back then, if camps would even be allowed to open. Camp directors we spoke with at that time were scurrying to come up with alternate plans, just in case. Some, forced to make early staffing and facility-rental decisions, made difficult decisions not to open this summer. Some forged ahead to create online camp experiences, figuring an “abundance of caution” approach was prudent. Many said they would not commit to 2020 summer programming until they received a clear green light from the state to resume.
Then, on May 28, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey gave that green light, announcing that summer camps, youth activities and sports leagues will be allowed to operate this summer. But the responsibility to create and provide specific safety measures still falls largely on individual camps.
First priority, of course, is preventing the spread of the coronavirus among active groups of children. The American Camp Association and YMCA worked with Environmental Health and Engineering and a panel of experts in science, health, hygiene and safety to publish a field guide to help camps make and implement changes that should be considered before reopening. The field guide is available online, and its recommendations apply to both overnight and day camps.
For the staff at Raising Arizona Kids, all these rapidly changing plans required a big pivot on our part, too. The work we’d done to curate a summer camps listing for our March issue had to be redone to reflect changed programming, changed dates and changed formats.
We’re adding to and amending these online directories every day. And in completing the updates, we’re seeing themes emerge in the new precautions on-site camps will be taking with the children in their care.
Look for enhanced cleaning and sanitation measures and extra hand-washing and hand-sanitizer stations. Expect smaller group sizes and less mingling among groups of children. Seating will take physical distancing into account. Campers may (and staff probably will) be required to wear masks. Temperatures may be checked at the door. Screening questions may be asked.
Some overnight camps are quarantining staff in the weeks leading up to camp, and prohibiting them from leaving campgrounds during the time they have children in their care. More meals will be held outdoors. Fewer children will sleep in each cabin.
We’ve been impressed with the creativity, care and quickness that characterize every tough decision these camps — nearly all of which are small businesses and nonprofits — have had to tussle with in the last many weeks. Camps won’t be the same this year. Some new approaches won’t be perfect. But all offer opportunities for children to learn, grow, try new skills, test their limits and safely spend time (even if just online) with friends. And isn’t that what camp is all about?