Masks, gloves, six feet apart, and quarantine are the new normal. Meanwhile at camp, mowers and weed eaters, chainsaws and the tractor are humming along, tending the landscape of the 24149 to be ready, primed for what we are all collectively holding our breath for: that Camp Carysbrook will announce we are open for a summer to remember. Phone calls and emails to Erika, along with Zoom meetings with staff members, parents, campers, and alums have become the absolute highlight of these strangely drawn-out days and weeks. Every word and gesture of support, from a simple post-it note “thank you” in the mail to a response on a social media post, means the world to us and gives us even more strength to fight for our most important summer to date.
When will we know? What will be different? These are swirling questions for us all. Right now we are all being forced to make tough decisions with the information that’s currently available, which could change, depending on a number of variables, and does, almost daily, all while we navigate this new normal. We continue to check in with the ACA and the Montgomery County Health Department. We watch the Virginia governor’s press briefings for clues, and yet with 59 days until camp, there is still nothing definitive. We know you want answers and so do we. So let us share with you what we do know.
At this time, the American Camp Association (ACA) has advised us in an email as follows:
“ACA has had the opportunity to connect with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as they develop COVID-19 guidance for day and overnight camps for this summer. The CDC’s guidance will help state public health authorities and camp directors with their summer decisions, as well as utilize best practices in health management, community management, and camp operations.
The CDC advises camps to give themselves as much time as possible before making final decisions about the summer. That’s because you’ll need to use the upcoming CDC point of view in your decision-making process. Rest assured we will keep you closely informed about when the CDC will release their guidance.”
American Camp Association, April 15, 2020
Like you, we are processing our present situation and considering our future with very little definitive information. I am a planner without a plan. And that never lasts long with me, so we have a series of backup plans in order to be ready when the time comes to make the decisions of what this summer looks like. But to be sure, it will require patience, flexibility, determination, and risk-management from all of us. It’s a good thing we have been nurturing these skills summer after summer for decades.
We believe the service we provide at Camp Carysbrook is integral to the recovery and reintegration into society of our campers as a result of this pandemic, in addition to the everyday obstacles the modern world already presents to young women. So the viability of the summer is something we believe is worth fighting for, and if waiting for a plan from health professionals is what we need to do, we will do it.
Meanwhile, here’s what WE are doing now:
- We are in touch with our food and other supply vendors to secure essential supplies like cleaning and disinfecting supplies, TOILET PAPER, hand soap, etc.
- We are consulting with other camps in Virginia and West Virginia, to share information and ideas and formulate timelines to make an informed decision for Camp Carysbrook.
- We are evaluating our health policies and procedures with veteran camp health professionals to address COVID-19 and assess our current facilities, including installing more handwashing stations at camp and improving the bathhouse facility for improved ease of disinfection.
- We are in touch with the agencies that provide our invaluable international staff and we are closely monitoring decisions by the State Department and travel restrictions going forward, and we hope to know more by mid-May. As part of our safety and health measures in addition to guidelines from the CDC, ACA, and the Montgomery County Health Department, we are advising campers and staff to self-quarantine before camp and follow any government-mandated orders.
- In order to ease the pressures of getting your camper’s health documentation in order, we will be extending the deadline for completing your health profile in CampDoc to June 1, 2020. Please contact Erika in the office if, for any reason, you’re unable to schedule a doctor’s appointment prior to this date.
- We are using the following calendar as a guide to decision-making for operations by session as follows:
June 1 decision on opening on June 21 for the 1,3, and 7 week sessions
June 15 decision on opening on June 28 for the 2,6 and modified 3 and 7 week sessions
June 30 decision on opening July 12 for the 4 and modified 6 and 7 week sessions
We will stay flexible to offer campers not signed up for those sessions a spot if available on a first come first serve basis. Please stay flexible with us as we try to make an earlier decision where possible or otherwise make changes to these goals. If your camper’s session is modified, we will adjust the tuition. We will keep monitoring the situation and keep you updated accordingly.
What YOU can do now:
- Pediatricians are offering telemedicine appointments. We strongly recommend discussing both your camper’s health including any conditions exacerbated by COVID-19 such as pulmonary conditions, asthma, and immuno-compromised conditions AND your camper’s plans to attend camp. Your pediatrician will be the best expert to advise you on whether or not attending camp this summer will be the right decision for you. If your camper does have one of these conditions, or if you have any concerns about her health, please contact your pediatrician if your paperwork was completed before March 15, in order to provide a more accurate assessment of your camper’s readiness for the camp experience.
- Make a plan that is flexible. That means making travel arrangements that can be adjusted depending on circumstances after booking. Travel insurance is your best protection if you need to book flights.
- Continue following your state’s social distancing and stay at home orders. Wash your hands!
- Teach your campers the importance of good personal hygiene in the time of COVID-19. Their counselors will guide them once they are at camp, but these are new life skills and starting now will make for healthy habits at camp washing hands frequently before meals, after activities and after going to the bathroom. Not sharing clothing, utensils, hair brushes and hair ties, and water bottles will be essential to a healthy camp now more than ever. Not sharing clothing and learning to put dirty clothes in a hamper not back in a drawer or trunk will be essential at home or at camp.
Erika and I continue to pilot uncharted waters, proceeding with staff interviews, parent phone calls, cabin lists, bills, loans, and putting the puzzle together again for a summer to remember after a spring of disruption we might rather forget. We check on each other, commiserate, share tips and recipes and hope, drawing on Carysbrook for inspiration to do much with the bare minimum and inject the monotony of our new normal with creativity like we have learned in the 24149. We hope that you do too. As new business owners, Joe and I have made calculations as best and as informed as we can, and to not have camp at all is our absolute last option. We operate the business year round while opening our doors for two months; and, much like a festival or a wedding, there are never ending to-do lists and payables in anticipation of the main event. What that looks like we still cannot predict, but with trust at the foundation of our whole relationship, you can trust that we will do our best by you no matter what the future holds. We are all in this together. And you can trust that, while there is no foolproof method to navigate these challenges, our priority is the care, health, and safety of your campers, and the health of camp as a business to be here for young women 1923 until forever.