Summer day camps prepare to reopen

Summer day camps prepare to reopen

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - As part of North Carolina’s modified Phase Two reopening, summer camps may reopen for children with some stringent requirements and many other recommendations to protect health and safety.

Many parents are eager for fun, safe ways to get the kids out of the house and camp administrators are considering every angle to make sure their programs will be as safe as possible.

At the Community Arts Center in downtown Wilmington, camp flyers hang outside as do signs encouraging the wearing of face masks, social distancing and proper hygiene. Half and full day camps begin June 22.

“We were in hold mode, wait and see mode, until we heard from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services that camp would be an option, and they had a wonderful, extensive guideline of everything that you need to do to make your campers and your counselors and everyone in the building safe,” said Executive Director Susan Habas. “We are also going to have staggered lunch and snack times. We’re going to have extended times for people to drop off and pick up their children and every morning we’re going to have temperature checks and health screenings.”

The state is allowing childcare facilities and camps to re-open with restrictions and some specific guidance.

Executive Director Jim Karl says they’re working to determine exactly how much traffic they’re prepared to handle in the form of soft openings and day camps.

“Nothing is going to make it completely safe. So you do the best you can and the main thing we’re going to do is communicate to people what we’re doing; we will require adults to wear masks, that’s the plan right now,” Karl said.

In July, The Children’s Museum hopes to open for small events with a maximum enrollment of 10 children.

“We’re not going to rush anything; we’re going to have a very staggered approach, maybe we’ll have some very soft opening days, but the point is we’re going to do everything we can so that when folks arrive they understand the experience. We’re going to have contact-less entry, there’s going to be no cash, period in the museum. We’re going to have shields up, we’re going to be protected. We’re going to do all the things we think are reasonable,” he said.

Many places, like the Little Gym of Wilmington, intend to continue offering virtual classes to those who aren’t comfortable coming in person just yet. The kids’ fitness center sent out a family survey gauging the level of interest in their reopening.

“The majority of everybody has been very positive on they can’t wait to get their kids out of the house, they can’t wait to get back into a new norm,” said Program Director Hilary Hayakawa.

“Children have lost so many activities now, it’s really important for them to be able to safely restart some of the things that are familiar to them and I think everyone is excited about that opportunity, plus we’ve been here a long time, we do have an extensive youth program and we know how to do this,” Habas said.

The Little Gym had rigorous cleaning protocols in place prior to COVID-19. Now, they intend to reopen for small camp groups with no more than nine children per class.

“We did have a special cleaning routine, where all manipulative equipment would not be touched again after that child touched it," Hayakawa said. "We would put it away and have another instructor wipe it down, and same with the mats...we’re going to be spacing out time a bit more to make sure it’s in-depth, but what our standards were before, we had them so high that we are continuing on with that.”

However, many places—including many overnight camps—are choosing to not-reopen for now.

In some instances, following such strict guidelines is impractical or unsafe.

New Hanover County’s Special Olympics has cancelled all in-person events and activities through September.

“Even if for some reason we would have been able to do in-person, a lot of our group has sensory issues that they wouldn’t be able to wear a mask, or gloves, or they just don’t understand that we would have to stay apart, so logistics-wise, we just really wouldn’t be able to make that work for our group,” said Coordinator Brooke Deamaral.

Deamaral is currently working on transitioning her entire summer camp into a Zoom format and working to provide as much of the same content, activities and exercise as she would have for in-person camps.

For programming put on by the City of Wilmington’s parks and recreation department, a spokesperson said:

As of right now, community and recreation centers are scheduled to open in Phase III. Recreation center and programming staff have been working to put together programs that can be offered virtually, in-person with reduced numbers (if allowed) and also providing resource materials for camp activities to be done at home.

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