When Camp Granite Lake in Coal Creek made an April announcement that summer camp would be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the decision, which seemed premature to some, drew significant …
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When Camp Granite Lake in Coal Creek made an April announcement that summer camp would be canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, the decision, which seemed premature to some, drew significant media attention.
“Families really understood it. A few of them said it’s early, but we have a really thorough medical lens that we view things through,” said founder and director Tommy Feldman. “Right now, there’s just not enough known about the virus.”
Despite some feeling surprised over the announcement, it wasn’t long before other day camps and sleepaway camps across the Jefferson County area began to take the same steps, making for a summer 2020 just as unprecedented as the spring has been.
On May 25, Gov. Jared Polis announced that beginning June 1, summer camps including day camps and sports camps could open under strict health and safety precautions.
But even with the option available, most local Jeffco camps are looking at other structures or virtual alternatives, at least for the month of June.
“Going to a camp in this current climate, where you can’t be close to your friends and you’re all wearing a mask, I wonder how it would alter a child’s feelings on what a day camp is going forward,” said Sharon Moore, who coordinates Jefferson County summer day camps for 4-H youth.
She believes that for some, it may be better to hold off on in-person camp — “But we think it’s important to have that opportunity (to have virtual camp); we don’t want to lose our relationships with families, either,” she said.
The 4-H camps — programmed through the Colorado State University Extension office — will run in a virtual setting this year. As opposed to taking campers to a different open space or park each day, kids will be able to log onto an interactive map and virtually visit a different place Monday through Friday.
When they click on the map, they’ll be able to watch video clips created by the staff.
“They’ll be teaching some of the lessons and just giving the kids a view of what they see out there and giving them a connection to the team,” Moore said. “Then as best we could, we recreated some of the hands-on activities. Some might be inside or a lot of them can be done outside in your backyard.”
The website will also link to other sites for more information on certain topics. The entire camp will provide several hours of content per day, but the idea is that campers can choose how much or how little they would like to participate in each day, Moore said.
The camp is open to incoming third-graders through sixth-graders “in the community and beyond,” she said. Families can register for free at jeffco.extension.colostate.edu/4-h/4-h-summer-camps.
Meanwhile, Camp Granite Lake is likewise making changes, holding fast to its decision not to hold its summer sessions in 2020. The choice was partially made to protect the camp from unexpected economic hardship that could come if the pandemic began to spark additional closures later this summer.
“We’re still a young camp; this would have been our 15th year overall,” Feldman said. “If we were open (this year) and had to close because of the pandemic, we would have never been able to open again.”
Camp Granite Lake is now completely focused on preparing for 2021.
“The nice thing about being closed is we are not in a hurry; we’re just rolling it out slowly for next year,” Feldman said. “The support of our families has been overwhelming. I think when we open up in 2021, we’re going to have a strong return.”
Though camp won’t be running as usual this summer, families who enroll for next year now will be invited for half-day opportunities to enjoy camp activities like paddle-boarding, ceramics, canoeing and others, Feldman said.
The camp is also looking at opening up later in the summer so families can stay the night if possible under health guidelines.
The city of Lakewood has canceled all of its summer camp programs this season, with several barriers standing in the way of opening even despite the governor’s announcement.
For instance, some of the Lakewood programs were set to take place in Jeffco Public Schools facilities, which are unavailable at this time, said Amber Wesner, public engagement and operations manager with the city.
Because of this, the city is joining other organizations in offering virtual activities. Lakewood began posting activities May 29 and they can be accessed through Lakewood.org/Register, Lakewood.org/VirtualRec and Lakewood.org/VirtualArts.
The Arvada Center’s summer camps, which include dance, drama, visual arts and other camps, are also going virtual this June out of concern for families’ safety, said assistant education director Teresa Cirrincione.
Camps normally run for about three hours Monday through Friday, but will now be held over Zoom video conferencing for about one-and-a-half hours each day. By doing this, the camp has been able to discount tuition by 50%.
Though the camps are online, each camp is organizing certain elements that may need to be done in person under social distancing restrictions. For example, ceramics campers could bring their projects to the center so that they can be fired, Cirrincione said.
Students ages five through their teens are invited to sign up for the programs, with registration available at arvadacenter.org/education/summer-camps.
The center is also looking at opening its July and August camps as normal and will make that decision in early June, Cirrincione said.
But for now, staff members are excited about the virtual June opportunities and the new ways the format has allowed them to expand.
“We’re finding it’s allowing us to break down some geographic barriers. We’re having families register from different parts of the state, we have families interested in registering from New Mexico, Wyoming, Missouri,” she said. “It’s going to look different and feel different but we’re still aiming to achieve our goals and most importantly, have fun.”
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