While COVID-19 continues to create challenges further and further along the calendar, kids planning to day camp at Elachee Nature and Science Center may not have to worry about disappointment right now.
That's because officials with the nature preserve think they've found a way to still have their annual camp, regardless of the pandemic's course.
Board of Trustees President and CEO Andrea Timpone said they consulted with multiple medical professionals, as well as other camp directors, and they determined the initial date they were shooting for - June 1 - may be too soon.
"That date has now changed until June 29 and we hope to go through July, with five weeks of camp for children aged kindergarten through middle school ages," said Timpone. "We have been closely following guidelines put out by the CDC, the state, our Chamber [of Commerce], our insurance company... fully understanding that the situation may change again, before July."
But as of now, those five weeks will be booked for school-aged children excited to learn about their world.
Regardless of potential changes, Timpone said they are doing the best the can to create and keep a set of guidelines in place.
"Right now, we'll be keeping our group size below the recommended level of 10, which is quite a bit smaller than our group sizes usually are," she said. "We'll be spending all of the time outdoors - we usually spend most of summer camp time outdoors, but the only time the children will be indoors will be to use the restroom."
Timpone said they plan to increase the cleaning procedures for the restrooms and any other "touch point" surfaces. She added the kids may be inside if there is inclement weather, but otherwise they plan to keep the kids in nature as much as possible. That also means the aftercare program they typically offer won't be available this year and kids would need to be picked up by 3 p.m. instead of the 5 p.m. aftercare time.
And, Timpone said while typically campers bring their own lunch anyway, they will be required to do so this year as Elachee will not be serving meals. In an effort to minimize contact as much as possible, temperatures will be taken as campers arrive and everyone will be encouraged to remain socially distant.
Campers ready to sign up can do so as of this week on the Elachee website, and those who were previously scheduled to be part of the fun are being rescheduled in.
The pandemic didn't just alter the potential for the day camp, Timpone said all of the nature center's public gatherings and school field trips were canceled, and their Nature Academy private school for pre-k through first grade students was also greatly impacted.
Despite students learning the fun of school from home with their state certified teachers, Timpone said, "Our preference is always to have those children outside, even in those virtual lessons, we are encouraging parents to get those children and explore, do as much as they can outdoors as well."
Meanwhile, Elachee's annual auction and dinner, which is typically on the grounds, was instead held virtually this year. "That fundraiser was very successful for us, we're very pleased and thankful for the community support."
And, Timpone said they had noticed the use of their trails had gone up as people spent time out of their offices and working from home.