Each year, more than 14 million children and adults attend summer camp in the U.S., but the coronavirus pandemic may cause these camps to look different moving forward. The Harrisburg Area YMCA in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, will be providing summer childcare in place of their traditional summer camp.
“Unfortunately, there are too many issues to run our summer day camps as normal this year to accommodate kids in a safe manner,” said Rosie Turner, the director of marketing and communications for the Harrisburg Y. “One issue is capacity. Typically, we run summer camps in partnership with local schools and churches to serve about 500 to 700 kids per summer. Many of these locations have chosen not to open to large groups of children, leaving the YMCA struggling to find enough space to accommodate our usual capacity.”
Since the Harrisburg Y cannot currently operate as a wellness center and their members cannot return, they have pivoted their plans to have as many children as possible attend summer camp at the YMCA location. Turner said they can use gyms, fitness classrooms and other large spaces to safely host a variety of educational and social activities for youth in need of care as parents return to work.
Before opening summer camps, the CDC recommends having the following procedures in place:
- Promote healthy hygiene practices, such as hand washing and employees wearing a cloth face covering, as feasible.
- Intensify cleaning, disinfection and ventilation of facilities and transport vehicles/buses.
- Encourage social distancing through increased spacing, small groups and limited mixing between groups, and staggered scheduling, arrival, and drop off, if feasible.
- Where feasible, adjust activities and procedures to limit sharing of items such as toys, belongings, supplies and equipment.
- Train all employees on health and safety protocols.
Turner said they are in the process of implementing protocols for kids, such as wellness checks, sanitation procedures, social distancing and other measures required by their licensing organizations.
“Once we have the complete rundown from the state and other regulatory organizations to get protocols in place, we are planning to release a series of videos for parents and kids to watch together before they come to the Y to set their expectations for what the changes will look like,” explained Turner. “We want to make sure the kids aren’t worried or scared when they arrive and see things like teachers wearing masks, temperature monitoring, and when they are asked to get out of the car at the curb rather than being taken inside by mom or dad.”
Although summer camps across the country may look different, or even not take place, many recreation centers are doing their best to continue to serve families in their communities.
“Even though it’s going to look different, we made the choice to have care available at the YMCA this summer because we want to start helping kids and parents transition into the next phase of the COVID-19 pandemic comfortably, and in a familiar setting,” said Turner. “By offering support to parents who will be asked to return to work, we are continuing our mission to provide support to our community.”