With COVID-19, summer camp providers plan cautiously, await guidance
There may be another shoe to drop for parents muddling through supervising kids' e-learning and working full-time from home.
As many families mentally prepare for the possibility school closures will extend into May to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the next question is -- will summer camps occur?
Nothing is guaranteed, officials say. Although indications are the death toll from the respiratory disease is leveling off, cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Illinois with the count reaching 1,173 Monday.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker has not yet extended the state's stay-at-home order past April 30 but cast doubt on holding summer festivals last week.
That leaves park districts, forest preserve districts, and other recreation-providers in limbo with time running out to pull the plug.
The Lake County Forest Preserve District expects to make an announcement about summer camps "in the next couple of weeks," Director of Education Nan Buckardt said. "We want to minimize anxiety and stress for participants and employees."
The stakes are high for providers who typically would be finalizing programming, locations and staffing.
The Fox Valley Park District starts summer camps in early June. "There are a lot of variables to consider even if the ban is lifted," Director of Marketing and Communications Dan Leahy said. "Will it be lifted but still restrict numbers? Will it be lifted only for certain businesses or activities?"
As Fox Valley officials wait for state and federal guidance, they're currently "working through the many scenarios, and preparing as if summer camps will go," Leahy said last week.
Much is on the line for parents who have already paid hundreds of dollars to book popular camps or worrying about the potential risks for their children.
One thing is certain -- school years will end at their normally scheduled dates.
"None of the school days that have been impacted by COVID-19 will need to be made up, so each school district can plan to conclude their school year on the date originally planned," Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Jackie Matthews said.
The Naperville Park District is proceeding with registration for summer programming, Executive Director Ray McGury said, while monitoring the COVID-19 situation and standing ready to make changes if health officials recommend.
"This may include a reduction in camp sizes and with field trip offerings," McGury said. "Ultimately, we will work within the guidelines provided by health officials to ensure that we're conducting safe summer program offerings."
Similarly, Rolling Meadows Park District leaders are "working off the hope the stay-at-home order will be lifted and summer camp can safely begin as scheduled," Executive Director Kevin Romejko said.
"We are also firmly committed to the health and safety of participants, guests and staff," and as federal, state and local guidelines evolve, the program will be adjusted accordingly, Romejko added.
Cancellation policies differ depending on the camp program. In Rolling Meadows' case, if summer camps are shortened or canceled, "we will issue either the appropriate credit to account or refund," Romejko said.
Girl Scouts of Greater Chicago and Northwest Indiana CEO Nancy Wright said the organization has "not reached a decision to date," on summer camps but would let families know in a "timely manner."
"It is our primary responsibility to prioritize the health and safety of our girls, their families and our communities, as well as to understand the ongoing, evolving recommendations" from medical experts and governments, Wright said.