Summer camps around the region consider coronavirus

Published: Apr. 21, 2020 at 5:15 PM EDT
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With schools closed till the end of the year due to coronavirus, many kids -- and parents -- are looking ahead to summer camps, but will they be open?

Spring is often when summer camps are gearing up for warmer weather and planning full days for campers.

"During that entire time it is packed with people," said Debbie Archer with Audubon Vermont, which runs popular summer programs. But she says packed campers during this time of social distancing might not work. "At this point, I don't know how we would go on as normal."

That's why Audubon Vermont is cancelling camp for this summer and refunding its 300 campers. "We needed to make the decision so parents would know soon in light of all of the uncertainty," Archer said.

But not all Vermont camps are waving summer goodbye before it starts. Camp Hochelaga a day and sleep-a-way camp that hosts up to 700 girls in South Hero is still weighing its options. With two months till the first day of camp, director Hannah Parke says they are still on.

"Descisions we make coming into the summer will be guided by safety first and foremost, but we are also very cognizant of the importance of the experience and the value that camp provides for our kids," Parke said.

With dozens of camps of different sizes and themes in every corner of the state, the Vermont Camp Association's Ellen Flight says there are some tough decisions ahead for the 2020 season. "Our parents are saying, 'Man, we want our kids to go to camp.' That's the one thing they are holding out for," Flight said. She says whether it's a day camp or overnight camp, kids are usually sleeping, eating, and hanging out in very close quarters. "Social distancing isn't much to do with camp."

While a lot of kids around the region go to camp, many also come from out-of-state, which is a concern during a pandemic. "I think each camp is going to be on their own timeline, and that will depend on how far their kids come from, how far their staff comes from, and how they might weather having camp or not," Flight said.

Most places are taking it day-by-day and waiting to make a decision, but some those who have shut down for the summer are already looking ahead. "Audubon has been around since 1964 and we are going to keep on trucking as best as we can," Archer said.