How to Run a Summer Camp During COVID-19
by Avishay Nachon, CEO and owner, Camp Kimama Israel
Over the last few weeks, the question has come up of whether and how it’s even possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19. Every day we hear about more restrictions and new prohibitions – and if you listen to the news, sometimes it seems like it’s impossible to do anything at all beyond just staying home.
But we think differently. We believe it’s possible to run summer camps and what’s more, we believe that summer overnight camps are the only way to guarantee children’s health over the summer vacation. Therefore, we’re calling on the government to make private summer camps the most appropriate substitute for the educational and occupational framework for every child and teen in Israel.
Summer schools have already proven their inefficiency, with many instances of infection, anger at the system, and failure in every way. Summer camps run by professionals, on the other hand, could adapt themselves quickly to the dynamic changes necessitated by the new procedures.
So is it actually possible to run a summer camp during COVID-19? Absolutely!
Overnight camp could be the safest option for spending summer 2020. A summer camp which lasts two weeks, held in a supervised setting with a doctor, clinic, isolation room, activities conducted in “capsule” form, and a variety of educational and interactive activities – this is the only possible substitute which gives children a secure occupational framework. Instead of spending two weeks shut up in isolation at home in front of a screen, summer camps let children spend two weeks in youth villages, out in the open air, with activities centered around the sea, pool, grassy areas, sports fields, a spacious dining room and supervision by professional staff to look after their every need.
Our task, as camp operators, is to ensure that camp takes place in the safest possible way, with extra attention to strict procedures, without diminishing campers’ enjoyment. At Kimama, we’ve formulated a number of principles based on outlines provided by the Ministry of Health and based on our professional experience as the largest and leading private summer camp organization in Israel. These principles include strictly requiring a health declaration form; taking temperatures twice a day, and in the event that a camper is running a fever, sending them home immediately; a spacious dining room which will run in shifts; a doctor on site to advise on all activities; isolation rooms; masks as mandatory equipment for campers and staff (along with a hat, water bottle, and sunscreen); not permitting Parents’ and Family Day visitation (to ensure two weeks’ removal from the external environment); “capsule” groups of up to only 25 campers; a strictly enforced cleaning regimen, the most diligent level of sanitation, and more.
So where’s the fun?
Just like every year – and even more so this year – an overwhelming majority of the activities will take place in open areas where a mask is not needed. We will increase activities held in outside areas: the pool and the sea, sports fields, nature activities, sessions held in grassy areas and other activities held in open areas. Instead of choosing a themed track like water sports, dog training, cooking, or drama – all the children will experience a range of different activities, thus enjoying a selection of varied, unique attractions.
There’s no doubt that summer 2020 presents a major challenge for children, for parents, and especially for us as summer camp operators. Children’s wellbeing – keeping them safe and healthy – is always our top priority. Creating clear procedures and ensuring they are followed will help make summer 2020 an unforgettable experience – perhaps even more than ever!!