Will Summer Camps Open Next Year?
We don’t know for sure what the world will look like in Summer 2021, but we do know that Camp Walt Whitman and other sleepaway camps throughout the Northeast are going to safely open next summer.
This seems like a bold pronouncement, but we have been ready to reopen since May of 2020. Despite only having a few months this spring to hammer out a plan to operate camp during Covid, we consulted with our medical team and came up with the protocols for a safe 2020 season. It was only when the New Hampshire governor’s task force announced new restrictions on camps on June 3rd that we decided we could not run camp in a way that would be worthwhile for our campers, families and staff. Since then, we and other camps have had ongoing communications with the governor’s office. This has led to repeals of the most cumbersome restrictions, making it much easier to open Camp Walt Whitman in 2021.
Our hope and goal is for camp to return to normal next summer, but our shared definition of “normal” will likely change a bit between then and now. We assure you, though, that we are using this year to inform our protocols so that we can safely operate camp in a way that allows our campers to thrive at camp in 2021. We are actively speaking with schools and universities to find out what really works and what it takes to keep a campus healthy, even as our campers reconnect with friends and enjoy all the aspects of our community.
We are also using our own personal and professional experiences as camp directors to inform our plan for Summer 2021. We know first-hand that camps can operate safely, as we sent our own children to sleepaway camp this past summer for five weeks. Their camp followed every safety protocol and was able to form their own safe bubble in the middle of the woods.
Some families discovered this as well, as a number of camps—large, small, day, sleepaway—successfully opened in 2020 and demonstrated that they could safely operate during a pandemic. The camp industry is one in which best practices are openly and widely shared, which will help many camps follow the same safety steps moving forward. While there were two camps that opened last summer in Tennessee and Georgia that received a great deal of negative media attention due to significant Covid outbreaks, these were not ACA-accredited camps like ours, did not test campers and staff before arrival, and did not incorporate the safety measures that all ACA-accredited camps will have in place for this coming summer.
Hopefully Covid-19 will no longer be a health threat in Summer 2021, but if it does remain a concern, we will have had over a year to gain the shared knowledge and best practices to keep our campers safe and healthy. Over the coming months we will continue to update our safety protocols, as our understanding of Covid and its prevention evolves.
One thing is clear, though. Kids need camp more than ever. Covid and its many restrictions have taken a toll on our children’s emotional well-being, and the enriching experience of summer camp will help replenish the social connections, outdoor adventures, and physical fun that they have sorely missed. We have missed your campers too—and we can’t wait to see them again in Summer 2021.