How the pandemic changed summer camp

Ilnort Rueda
  • Roughly 19.5 million children did not have summer camp experiences because of coronavirus-related shutdowns.
  • A new CDC study shows that camps can open next summer and prevent coronavirus spread by using extensive safety protocols.
  • Camp operators have learned from the 2020 season to create best practices to make summer camp safer for everyone.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the summer for a generation of children.

Nearly two out of every three summer camps closed this year, according to a survey by CampMinder, a camp management software maker. The American Camp Association told CNBC that it estimates that roughly 19.5 million children did not have camp experiences this summer as 900,000 camp workers were unemployed and camps lost $16 billion in revenue because of the pandemic.

As disappointing the season was for parents and children, researchers have learned a great deal about making summer camps safer.

Safety Protocols Matter for Better Summer Care

Four sleep-away camps in Maine have led the way into what summer programs may look like in the future. A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that they could prevent the spread of coronavirus to more than 1,000 campers and staff members by using extensive safety protocols. For comparison, a similar CDC study discovered that 260 children and staffers of the 344 people tested contracted the coronavirus at a similar camp in Georgia after spending less than a week together in close quarters. 

The measures taken in Maine can be applied to summer care in the future and provide parents a degree of safety. Here’s what they did and how employers can help make summer better for parents and kids next summer.

Here’s what the Maine camps did right:  They screened out four potential cases and delayed their entry to camp until they were tested and passed a 14-day quarantine. All campers were quarantined for 14 days after arrival, they tested all campers 5 to 6 days after arrival and they limited campers to small groups throughout their programs.

Camps Continue to Refine Their Safety Protocols

More than 3,000 camps operated in the U.S. this summer and most collected data on how to improve their safety practices.

The American Camp Association developed a field guide on what they have learned about COVID-19 prevention and mitigation over the summer that will be used to improve safety at after-school and primary care programs as they reopen this fall.

Researchers from the government and the industry will continue to turn the data collected into best practices to make summer camp safer for everyone.

Safer Summer Camps Will Attract More Kids in 2021

Next year will see a rise in summer care as pent-up demand hits the market. As summer care providers learn from the 2020 season, parents will have more options for their children.

Employers that help working parents cope with balancing their jobs and childcare next summer have an opportunity to make major gains in productivity and keep a valuable segment of their workforce happy. A tailored childcare benefit program can differentiate your company, especially if it operates in a competitive environment.

Federal and state tax benefits exist for some summer camp expenses. Arvorie’s platform takes the complexity out of optimizing those incentives for employers to maximize program savings. Your company can offer a unique benefit that will delight parents next summer and beyond.


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