Updated: March 17, 2021
Hello Island Lake families,
We hope all is well with you and your camper(s). We are encouraged by promising news and positive developments but we realize that Covid is still a concern for us all. With this in mind, we wanted to reach out to provide you with an Island Lake health and safety update. We realize that any safety plan must reflect the most current data from the CDC, the American Camping Association and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and we have been following their recommendations closely. We have also been in touch with medical and camp professionals as well as testing experts and the Wayne County Camp Association.
As you continue to get to know us, you will find our goal is to always be transparent and proactive. And while things may continue to change over the next few months, we wanted to lay out a preliminary health and safety framework so you could get a better idea of what to expect. And we will continue to provide additional updates in the weeks leading up to camp. Keeping you informed is important because our ultimate goal is to provide a safe and a fun experience for your child(ren), and we believe that extensive planning, strong protocols and the support of our families will together help make this happen.
This update will include insight into plans for staff and campers as well as our controlled closed campus for summer 2021. It will also touch upon testing, sanitation and food procedures.
• Increasing staff for pre-camp to handle facility improvements and adjustments due to protocols
In a normal camping year, on June 1st, we would bring on 25 staff members for pre-camp to set up camp. This year, we are increasing that number to over 40 so we can also complete a number of new facility improvements and work through facility changes that must be made due to COVID protocols. We do not want this process to feel rushed and we want it done right.
• Earlier arrival for staff orientation with testing and an on-camp quarantine period
We normally require the rest of our staff to arrive 1 week before camp starts for orientation. This year, we are requiring our staff to arrive at least 2 weeks before the start of camp. This will ensure on-site quarantine and testing before participation in a full week of orientation. Staff will be tested upon arrival, maintain a quarantining period and then re-tested before they are able to interact with each other. Staff are going to be required to be PCR tested before entering camp.
• Staff vaccinations encouraged
Camp professionals are considered to be under the umbrella of child care and are currently getting vaccinated. Though we are not planning on allowing staff to leave camp for days off and evenings off during the summer, there is the extra reassurance that many of our staff will be vaccinated.
• Staff to stay on-camp for days and evenings off (staff will not be leaving camp over summer)
We have dedicated 8 bunks that are going to be used by staff for days and nights off. This will allow staff to have down time when they are not on duty and to recharge their batteries at night when they are off the next day. We are also remodeling the staff lounge and plan to dedicate some outdoor space that will be away from campers and available for staff when they are off. We will also offer staff full canteen every night as well as nightly entertainment (like outdoor movies and on-campus events) to keep them happy. We will listen to what their needs are and adapt promptly. We are only as good as our staff and we intend to support them every step of the way.
• Actively recruiting American staff
We are actively recruiting American staff and while we are on pace to be well staffed, we can always use your support with staff referrals. As a thank you through our “refer a staff” program, we will offer you $250 for each staff member hired so spread the word! International travel outside of a few countries is still unclear, but we have doubled down on the countries that have open travel restrictions and operating consulates, specifically to assist with our support staff which are currently signed up from Mexico.
• Please limit pre-camp activities
As you begin to think about your family’s plans before your child’s arrival to camp 10 days prior, we will ask you to limit any “high-risk” activities (ex: family trips, playdates, sleepovers, parties or group gatherings) as it gets close to our camp start date. This is one of the best ways to ensure a safe camp and we will need everyone’s participation to help make our summer successful.
• Testing prior to camp & self-quarantine
We are in contact with medical professionals at multiple testing companies in order to secure the most up-to-date resources for both preventative and as needed testing. We are currently finalizing our pre-camp testing plan and we will share it in the coming weeks. It will require your camper to have a PCR test on a specific date and negative test results will be required for entry into camp. We’ll also be asking you to self-quarantine as best that you can after this PCR test is done.
• Campers will be in pods for the first few days of camp
In an effort to limit exposure to other campers before our on-camp PCR test (done by a testing company) shows we are Covid-free, campers will be staying in pods by bunk for the first few days of camp. We know our campers will be eager to get to their majors and minors and we will make this happen as soon as it can be done safely. During this period campers will be having activities but in a more traditional camp style until the on camp testing is completed. In fact, once those results come back showing we are Covid free we will be having quite the celebration as we go back to a normal summer program!!!
• No buses to camp this year in an effort to limit exposure (we will have buses home)
In a normal year we would have everyone take a bus to camp. Because we are looking to have kids stay in pods based on their bunk, we can’t use buses as that would create a serious issue for any type of contact tracing. Thank you in advance as we are asking parents to drive their campers to camp this year. We will work out the time slot for you to come to camp understanding that some have to drive farther than others.
Campers WILL be taking buses home since they will have been together for the summer COVID free. New this year we will be also having a MD bus stop location in Lutherville to save the drive to the Philly bus stop. All of these details will be shared shortly.
• Camper arrival will be well planned
We will have staff waiting for your arrival to greet your campers and take them to their bunks. Parents will not get out of the car. It is going to be a very busy process but one that we have been working out with a few other camps to streamline. We will be sending out very detailed instruction once camp gets closer.
• Bunks available for quarantining and on-site testing if needed
We are going to have bunks dedicated for additional quarantining if campers show any symptoms of COVID. Testing is going to be available on-site for these cases. We will work closely with families as to what is happening with their child in the event they are feeling ill. It is important to remember that kids get sick at camp, but all will be tested for reassurance. In the event that a camper does test a confirmed positive, we will re-test two more times to ensure accurate results. We will then work with the family to arrange one of two things. The first and preferred option is to pick-up your child. Since most parents will be vaccinated at this point it is likely the best option to have your child in the comforts of your own home with you for the approximate 10 days it takes to clear your system. We will also have the option of quarantining the camper in one of our approved areas on camp however this will be decided on a case-by-case basis.
• 2nd Session Camper Arrivals
Campers that are coming in for just 2nd session will be following the same guidelines as campers that came in for first session. The only difference will be that for the first few days of camp we will have dedicated bunks for quarantining process (grouped in pods). Campers will still have activity periods throughout those days but they will be kept in their assigned pods. Once testing is complete, things will go back to normal and campers will mix with the general population. Also based upon on first session experience, we will make adjustments to our plan.
We are going to be operating in a controlled closed environment and our goal is to minimize anyone from coming onto our campus. There are going to be situations that are deemed essential, like food delivery, but we will have protocols in place that will include providing vaccination records, sanitization protocols for areas that are being used, no direct contact with our staff, and only select personal will be allowed to oversee deliveries.
While we love having parents and relatives come visit, at this time, it hard to imagine this happening without risking the health of our camp. With this in mind, we are not planning on holding visiting day this summer. We are however looking for additional and meaningful ways for our campers can be connected to their families throughout the summer.
We will be looking at adding additional phone times for campers to speak with their parents. We also are working on a Winter Wonderland in July special event day where parents can send up a “visiting day package” as a holiday gift and we will tie that into the whole special event. We are also currently working on getting Fiber brought to camp so we have workable internet speeds that will allow us to set up facetimes as well. We put the applications in for that a few weeks ago but we have not yet gotten any confirmation that it will done in time. Camp will be paying a big cost to make this happen but we believe it is valuable on a number of different levels, including the ability to keep our families and kids connected.
As much as we want to ensure the growth of Island Lake we will not be having tours this summer. It is too important for us to keep our campers healthy and happy this summer. We will however be doing tours once the summer is over.
While the camp we previously directed did not have a typical summer in 2020, we did oversee a camp rental with 600 kids and our camp operated 3 weeks of family camp. With this experience we were able to not only theorize on how things should be run, but we also got to put a lot into practice. This is going to be very helpful because some of the activity areas that help make ILC so unique require special care.
We are currently talking with several companies that have larger scale testing samples (pool testing) so that we don’t have to test kids individually. Though we have not decided to officially use any of them, we are continuing to work through the process looking for new advancements in testing. Working closely with the Wayne County Camping Association we are putting together additional plans of action.
We are part of the Wayne County Camping Association and have attended zoom calls discussing protocols and operating in this environment. We will continue to work together with the association to come up with the best collective practices. And as members of the American Camping Association, we have access to countless resources, 3rd party purveyors, collaborative date from the CDC and over 1000 camps working together for a common goal of a safe and happy summer.
While this is a lengthy email, there is a lot to update you on. We will also be putting this information in your camp in touch account for your convenience.
We will continue to work towards providing the safest environment for your child(ren). We cannot stress enough how your support will help make this summer successful for our camp. Thank you in advance for helping us to create a safe and fun camp environment.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Looking forward to an amazing summer!
Odie and Monica