“Summer Adventures is going great,” declared Recreation Director Amy Hamilton Thursday about the coronavirus version of the annual Recreation Department day camp program.
Summer Adventures is for children between age four and entering sixth grade, with groups of campers separated by grades. The third and last of the three-week sessions begins on Monday, and enrollment has grown from 150 to 190.
Again, the program is based at Bedford High School. This summer the Adventurers are using more classrooms than usual because of the need to keep the groups separated.
“We have had so many compliments, by email and in person, and kids have signed up for additional sessions,” Hamilton reported. “The kids go home happy.”
All the campers and staffers wear facemasks, except during water play. “They seem to get used to it,” Hamilton observed. “It’s part of my uniform, and they look at it that way, too. Kids are so resilient,” added Heidi Porter, town director of health and human services.
Everyone is encouraged to remain vigilant. “We can’t become complacent and we have to still be mindful,” the health director said. “We’re making sure they’re feeling well, we’re watching people who come in every day. It’s heavy-duty oversight, different from the past.” Hamilton noted, “We check each other.”
The biggest difference from past summers is the absence of swim lessons or other activities at Springs Brook Park. The Select Board decided not to open the facility for 2020 several months ago when the trajectory of the virus in the area was bleaker.
Another change, Hamilton added, is that the campers stay with their own groups all day. There are no opportunities for everyone to be together. And there are no field trips.
“It started with a lot of planning,” said Porter. “From the health side, we never were involved before. So we had to make sure we could do it, following state guidelines.”
On the program side, “We had to come up with more activities, and they had to be appropriate” for the situation,” Hamilton said. Several standard ones were dropped because there was too much contact or too little social distancing.
What’s popular this summer? Archery, for one – no separation problem there.
Woodworking, really any kind of crafts, Hamilton said. Science projects. Cycling without a destination. “They bike around locally and that’s really good – we have a ton of routes,” Hamilton said.
Porter pointed out that as the summer progressed, the state reopening criteria relaxed a little, which allowed a little more flexibility for Summer Adventures. “It has been evolving,” she said.
Hamilton was rhapsodic about the quality of the 65-person Summer Adventures staff, led by the veteran director, Davis School teacher Peter Laskaris. “I’ve been calling Peter since the shutdown began,” Hamilton said. “He has been so patient and ready to confront every obstacle. It makes such a difference to work with someone who is such a team player.”
“It’s all about the staff,” she continued. “You can come up with any ideas, but if you don’t have the staff to work well with the kids it doesn’t mean anything. This year they have really come through.”
“We have people on staff who are teachers, and they have good creative ideas,” Hamilton said, adding that many of the college and high school students who compose most of the staff, do as well.
Logistics have changed from past years, particularly with dropoff, as each youngster has to turn in a completed health questionnaire. “It has become so fast and efficient and prepared,” Hamilton said.
Participation is smaller than in past summers, Hamilton acknowledged, as several households opted for refunds once it was announced that the Summer Adventures agenda would be changing. “But we still have good numbers,” she said. Porter noted that her office licenses 8 to 10 private camps each summer to operate in Bedford. This season there is only one.
Despite the early uncertainty, Hamilton asserted, “It couldn’t have gone more smoothly.” Porter added, “The team has done a lot to make this a success.”