Many parents, children and camp owners have the same question on their minds — will camps open in 2020?
While Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) made the call to close schools throughout the state for the rest of the academic year a couple of weeks ago, camp owners are still waiting for the green light to open. While they wait, many remain hopeful, preparing for what will be a new normal this year as more protocols are put in place regarding the number of participants in activities, cleaning processes and much more.
Tom Palamara, president of HPP Rinx Inc., and Matt Pagliari, camp director at Hauppauge-based Hidden Pond Day Camp at The Rinx, said the American Camp Association and the YMCAs of the United States jointly have provided educational resources that can be used by all day and overnight camps, as well as by health departments and parents. The guide, which they are following, provides advice on topics such as communication of practices, health screening and prevention, cleaning and disinfection and more.
While The Rinx offers hockey, ice skating, preschool all year round, it closed down March 16. They are optimistic about this summer and are already working on plans with the hopes of opening at the end of June.
“We’ve been very fortunate that we’re still getting enrollments, and less than a handful of requests for money back,” Pagliari said. “I think the parents are really looking forward to their kids going to camp and we know the kids are looking forward to it.”
Todd Shaw, owner of Kids Country Day Camp, said the Mount Sinai facility is also preparing to offer camp at the end of June. He said many thought the governor would have announced camp information by now.
“So, that kind of threw us all a curveball,” Shaw said.
Yet, with knowing they will need to adjust practices for 2020, the staff has been getting ready for this summer.
“We’re planning each day as if we’ll have camp,” he said.
For the Mount Sinai camp, Shaw added parents’ reactions have been mixed. While some have already signed up, taking advantage of its early bird rate, others said they’ll take a break from camp this year.
Palamara and Pagliari said some of the key points they are addressing are arrivals, dismissals, lunchtime, use of the pool at the Hauppauge location, what to do on rainy days, sanitization and size of the groups. As far as the number of attendees, and campers in each group, they said that will come either from state or Suffolk County recommendations.
With a large piece of property, they said groups, whether with 10 or 25 campers, will not be a problem for them. They also added that the lunch area is large enough to follow social distancing protocols of 6 feet or more, and there are enough covered areas for rainy days.
“We work with 97 acres,” Pagliari said. “We have tons of room. We can have a spread out of arrivals, spread out our dismissal.”
At both camps, staff members and campers will have their temperature taken with touchless thermometers and be sent home if it’s elevated. Shaw said employees will also have their blood oxygen levels measured regularly to ensure no respiratory symptoms are present.
Both camps will clean and disinfect more often, including the use of disinfectant fog machines, which Shaw said get into every nook and cranny.
“We’re constantly evolving, and things we knew when we were planning a month ago we now know, okay, we can do more,” Shaw said. “We can add the safety protocol, we can add this level of sanitizing.”
Since Kids Country Day Camp is part of Kids of Mt. Sinai, a New York state licensed childcare facility and is deemed an essential business, the camp will be able to open for children up to 10 years old no matter what. In the past, the camp has needed a waiver to have 11 or 12 years old attend camp, which means those over 10 may not be able to take part if day camps aren’t allowed to open in 2020.
Shaw said employees are also looking at restructuring camp activities as some sports may not be able to be played, and more arts and crafts where campers can practice social distancing may take place or there may be more performances such as magic shows.
“We’ll be ready,” Shaw said. “We just don’t know — ready for what — yet.”
To be ready at the end of June, Hidden Pond Day Camp will be providing an online orientation for counselors. The guidelines will be a big help for counselors in handling different routines, Pagliari said.
“The kids’ safety is paramount to us, that’s going to come first,” the director said.
Shaw echoed the sentiments as he said his staff is always learning more and training has been enhanced.
“It’s important giving peace of mind — be safe and feel safe as well,” he said.