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Central Florida summer camps will be smaller, with face masks and temperature checks

Last updated: 05-18-2020

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Central Florida summer camps will be smaller, with face masks and temperature checks

Orlando Sentinel |
May 15, 2020 | 12:37 PM
Exterior of the Orlando Science Center at Loch Haven Cultural Park, on Monday, February 24, 2020. (Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/ Orlando Sentinel)(Ricardo Ramirez Buxeda/Orlando Sentinel)
Central Florida summer camps will host fewer children this year, with youngsters in smaller groups and new rules about temperature checks, face masks and even the sharing of art supplies.
These are new realities as camps across the region try to operate in some form amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everything is going to be different,” said Lisa Early, who heads Orlando’s Families, Parks and Recreation Department, which in years past has served about 1,700 kids a day at its summer camps.
As schools wrap up the academic year using distance learning, and more parents return to work, operators say there will be a demand for camp this summer, though likely it won’t be as high as in the past.
But to operate in summer 2020, camps must make adjustments to comply with CDC guidelines and to minimize health risks.
Camps will host fewer children to keep groups at 10 or less. The city of Sanford’s camp, for example, expects to serve fewer than 50 kids a week this year, down from 70 a week last year.
Several camp operators said they’ll be doing daily temperature checks on staff and some may require them to wear face masks, too. All will be doing extra cleaning.
Some also will be offering new online options, hoping to appeal to parents who want something entertaining for their children but don’t want them with mingling with other kids yet.
Still other operators, such as the YMCA of Central Florida, are still trying to decide how to safely run summer programs. The YMCA said it expects to offer its day camps at some Central Florida locations but hasn’t finalized plans. It also isn’t sure about opening Camp Wewa, its sleep-away camp in Apopka, where campers and counselors sleep, eat and play in close proximity.
In Orlando, which can offer spots to 603 campers a week this summer, children will be kept in a single room all day, rather than rotating from room to room for different activities. Field trips, typically taken to bowling alleys and theme parks, won’t happen this year. At least at first, city swimming pools and playgrounds won’t reopen to accommodate camps.
Orlando will check temperatures of staff and children daily, not allowing anybody into its neighborhood centers who has a temperature higher than 100.4. Masks won’t be required there but will be available if requested.
At the Orlando Museum of Art, which served more than 670 children last summer, staff canceled the first week of camp because few children were registered but plans to run its weeklong programs the rest of the summer.
Some working parents need summer time child care, but with more parents working from home that demand could be reduced this year, said Jane Ferry, curator of education for the museum.
Some parents also have been furloughed or laid off and can no longer afford camp. And others aren’t yet sure sending their child to a group setting is safe.
“I think everybody’s just waiting. Everybody’s being very cautious,” she said.
Once camp starts, the groups will be far smaller than usual, and children won’t be sharing art supplies but will be assigned their own art kits to use for their weeklong session. Parents will drop off and pickup curbside rather than coming inside.
And while there was always daily cleaning, it will now be done “more frequently and more deeply,” Ferry said.
The Orlando Science Center, which typically hosts 400 campers a week, plans to run its in-person camps this summer, too, but it will also offer a new virtual option, said JoAnn Newman, the center’s president and CEO, in an email.
Some parents have already contacted the center to confirm camp will be open, she wrote, because they need summer-time child care.
But the new virtual camp will provide an option for parents who do not yet want their children in group settings but “want learning to continue into the summer,” she said.
The virtual camp will be for students in grades 3 through 6.
The Florida Film Academy in Winter Garden is also offering new online options this summer, in addition to smaller versions of its traditional camps.
“We want to be able to serve our community however we possibly can and give our kids something to look forward to,” said Stefanie Robinson, one of the owners, said in an email.
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The Orange County Regional History Center and the city of Kissimmee also said they will be running summer camps but following new health guidelines.
At the history center, for example, staff will wear masks and will operate a “no contact curbside drop off and pick up for campers.”
In Orlando, where city camps starts June 1, Early said she and Mayor Buddy Dyer have participated in national conference calls discussing camps and youth programs in recent weeks.
They learned that some cities with higher rates of coronavirus transmission are holding off on camps, Early said. But they decided they felt comfortable moving forward if they followed health guidelines.
“We’re heavily ratcheting up our cleanliness and sanitation practices,” she said. “Those are the reasons why it made it easier to make this decision because there was clear guidance on how to do it.”
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