What to expect as summer camps prepare to reopen in central Indiana

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Wes Montgomery Spray Park/Photo from Indy Parks

INDIANAPOLIS — Last year, the coronavirus pandemic cancelled or changed summer camps all across the country. Now, the CDC has released new guidance on how they can operate this upcoming season.

IndyParks operated most of its summer camps at 40-50% capacity last year. This year, it will reach 50-60% capacity.

“In a good a year, we serve about 4,000 campers a year, and so we’ll probably be serving a little closer to 2,000 [this year],” said Senior Manager of Community Programs Joenne Pope.

Pope said IndyParks is still adhering to the mask mandate until that is lifted for Marion County. Staff and campers will be required to wear a mask and will be separated by three to six feet based on CDC guidelines.

“We are doing three feet definitely outside, and then it will just kind of depend on our space inside,” said Pope. “We do have some older buildings, or some tight spaces, so we want to make sure that the kids are able to be separated in a safe area.”

Pope said hand washing and sanitizing high-touch points will still be done frequently, and children will be kept apart while they eat.

“We learned so much last year. It was pretty stressful, but we learned a lot,” said Pope. “This summer is a lot better than last summer. At least we know what to expect. We know how to separate, we know how to wash our hands. I think the kids all know how to do that now. I feel a lot more comfortable, and I think my co-workers feel the same way.”

Swim time will resume at IndyParks this summer, too. Pope said campers will share the pool area with other patrons but will arrive during slower business hours like 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Pope said field trips will also be re-implemented with increased safety precautions like seating one camper per seat and keeping windows on the bus open.

At the YMCA of Greater Indianapolis, field trips will also pick back up this summer, but organizers are taking things one step further, offering a new camp because of the pandemic.

“It’s an outdoor explorers camp,” said Regional Director Genevieve Sullivan. “So you can sign up your kid, and it’s completely outside.”

Children in this new camp will be out in nature and learning about birds, insects, trees and the ecological systems.

As for safety precautions, Sullivan said some procedures from last summer will still be applied this year, like contactless pick-up and drop-off. However, other measures will vary by camp. The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis offers 30 different day camps across various counties.

“It is possible that two different camps could have two different standards,” said Sullivan. “It’s also possible that we may just decide that all of our camps are going to have a set of standards. In the next couple of weeks we’ll know a lot more.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Indianapolis will require masks and temperature screenings for all staff and youth, as well as any volunteers who enter the club.

“We will still adhere to CDC guidelines for safe social distancing and will allow youth to eat lunch and dinner in their program spaces instead of rotating through the cafeterias,” said LeeAnn Harris, senior director of club operations.

Harris said kids will also be given water bottles or disposable cups to use instead of water fountains throughout the day. Staff members will also continue to clean and sanitize program spaces and supplies between rotations of youth.

With a month left until pools open for the summer, IndyParks is hoping to fill several open positions, including lifeguards, camp counselors and concessions. Camps start as early as June 1, and several slots are still open at Brookside, Christian, Frederick Douglass, Krannert and Windsor Village Park.

To apply for a summer job, register for day camp or learn more about IndyParks programs, visit parks.indy.gov.

The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis is also still accepting campers. To register, you can go to indymca.org/youthdevelopment.

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