With many schools closed for the rest of the academic term, parents with children at home are starting to wonder: Will summer camps be canceled as well? And if camps are open, would it even be safe to send a child—considering that camps are the very opposite of social distancing?
“We are talking to our sleepaway camps and overnight programs daily, and for the most part, they are all upbeat and positive about their ability to host kids this summer,” said Stephanie Vordick, an adviser with Tips on Trips and Camps. “Camp directors are a resourceful and creative bunch, and they will make camp work if it’s at all possible. Summer programs have previously handled measles outbreaks, meningitis scares, Zika, H1N1, and other challenges. Very few have canceled their plans at this point.”
A statement sent to Washingtonian from the American Camp Association confirms that many camps are still in a wait-and-see mode: “Currently, camps are awaiting further guidance from the CDC, as well as state and county public-health authorities. In the meantime, camp professionals will continue to develop contingency plans for ways to continue serving their communities this summer. We expect to have more information to share by early May regarding the future status of camp operations.”
Several DC-area camps we contacted all said they’d be making decisions in early May about whether to open.
Vordick says that depending on when camps are given the go-ahead to operate by state and local officials—as well as guidance from the CDC about safety protocols—they may consider delayed openings, and shorter sessions. The availability of Covid-19 testing could also be a factor: It would allow camps to check the health of everyone coming into the facility.
The one exception, so far, may be camps held on school grounds. “We sense that programs held on college and school campuses (both day and overnight programs), will not run to protect those spaces for the fall return of their school-year communities,” Vordick says. “The few cancellations so far are all campus-based programs.”
Even camps that cancel in-person sessions may offer programming for parents desperate for enrichment and diversion for their children.
“Like many area camps, we plan on making a decision on the first few weeks of camp in the beginning of May,” says Christine Mason, director of summer programs at the St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes schools in Alexandria. “To the extent we don’t run in-person camps for any given week, we are considering offering some virtual camps and are in the process of gauging our families’ interest in this.”
They’re not alone. “For now, we do not have plans to cancel, but we are actively strategizing in the event that it is not socially responsible to meet in large groups when the summer rolls around,” said Megan Zinn of Summer Cove camp in Springfield. “This might mean moving to some virtual activities for our registered families. If we do get the okay to run from the government, we plan to do everything in our power to keep our campers safe and healthy. This might mean smaller class sizes and more vigorous cleaning schedules.”
If the camp your child plans to attend does happen, Vordick suggests finding out a camp’s plans for hygiene and cleaning, food preparation, medical care, and other areas of concern. “Every parent considering camp programs should look to camps and programs to provide detailed descriptions of how they will keep children and staff safe, as well as detailed instructions for how they expect families to comply with safety protocols and guidelines,” she says.
So far, Vordick says, parents seem willing to wait and see and are not yet asking for refunds. And, she says, “most programs are offering generous cancellation policies and the option to transfer deposits to 2021.”