As our planning for an exceptional summer at FLC continues, we are writing to provide a further and more specific update on our plans for making the summer of 2020 safe for our campers, counselors and their families.
Much still remains unknown and there is currently very active debate happening with the CDC, ACA and political officials which unfortunately have bogged down the issuance of more detailed guidelines for many businesses including summer camps. These delays mean that we aren’t yet fully able to deal with some of the detailed operational guidelines that we will be putting in place for the summer. We were also expecting some news from the Governor of New York this week, however he did not provide any information or update regarding summer camps in his briefing today. Nonetheless, we have actively engaged our Medical Advisory Board and we are proceeding with our operational planning. There is a lot we do know now and are considering, and we wanted to share those thoughts with you based on the concepts that have been outlined to us already (to see the ACA’s outline for guidance please click HERE). The sections in the outline are updated by the ACA as they become available.
In the past, many have heard us discuss the idea of a camp bubble; the existence of camp as a separate landscape full of special memories and people that frees our campers to be their best selves while forming lifelong relationships with their camp family. This year the camp bubble will take on new meaning, and this is the general idea behind how the summer operations will be constructed. We will establish the most solid bubble possible around camp, using the current situation and guidelines provided to us as they evolve towards our summer season. Within the larger bubble of FLC there will exist smaller bubbles in various ways that will minimize the risks of exposure and outbreak. The fewer the leaks in the bubble, the safer the environment for everyone. Bottom line is we believe we will be able to provide a safe and solid bubble for all of our campers and staff to live while still enjoying camp.
This will require us to do many things differently, but the goal is that by creating a strong bubble, we will be able to create a near-normal experience within it. This is the concept that is being discussed within the camp community and we expect to see it as the baseline for many of the recommendations that are currently being considered. Again, while we aren’t yet able to get to the most detailed level because of the lack of formal guidance, we can share our thinking on the questions and concerns that we have heard the most from you in our conversations:
CREATING THE FLC BUBBLE
The issue that will most impact our day to day structure within camp is the availability and type of testing for the virus. Regardless of the type of test available (rapid response, 2-3 day delay etc.) our hope is that some testing will be available to all of us by the time camper arrivals begin in July. Through early conversations with our Medical Advisory Board we believe this to be a possibility but not a certainty. This specific information has a major impact on how we will conduct arrivals day, who will be allowed entry into camp and how we will structure daily operations throughout camp. In any possible case, drop-off will not look like it has in the past. All campers arriving by car will be screened prior to being allowed into camp. Parents will not be allowed out of their vehicles and will unfortunately have to immediately leave camp after drop-off as likely examples of some of the many changes that will take place.
Other items under consideration here will be the attendance of campers or counselors from international locations which will be driven by the travel rules in place at the time. We already have established that staff week will be two weeks so that all staff will have been quarantined for at least 14 days on site before campers arrivals.
KEEPING THE BUBBLE CLOSED
Once the bubble is established, we will look to keep it as closed as possible. There are many variables that will determine what this looks like and how we will keep exposure to the outside world limited. All of the following are being considered with the final structure to be determined. This is not an exhaustive list, but examples of what is currently under discussion by us and the broader camp community include:
1) No Visitors Day – we will not have a Visitor’s Day this year and parents will not be allowed out of their vehicles on camp at any point.
2) Restricted Staff movement – we have already told our staff that time-off rules will look different this year and staff likely will be significantly restricted in their off-time activities if they are allowed to leave camp at all.
3) No outside instructors or people on camp – this may impact our activities but likely will mean limitations on events like our tennis and science specialty clinics and perhaps riflery as well. This most likely will include no inter-camp competitions.
4) Minimal session flexibility – by moving to a 5 week summer, we are restricting camper arrivals to just two days this summer. We don’t anticipate cutting this further pending future developments.
5) Meal Service – Meal times and the way food is served may be adjusted based on the recommendations of the ACA and CDC.
MAKING SMALLER BUBBLES
Within the larger camp bubble, there is a possibility that we will create smaller bubbles within camp and this concept, called cohorting, is part of the discussion within the CDC, ACA and camps at the moment. The idea is that smaller cohorts, or family units allow for a feeling of normalcy within the cohort and limit exposure should the virus make an appearance. The size of the allowed cohorts is TBD, though a size of up to 50 people is being most discussed. This would allow for camp to be broken up into smaller bubbles. For example, creating 4 cohorts of 2 junior camps and 2 senior camps (1 each for boys and girls) would split camp up into groups that would sleep, eat and take activities together with their dedicated counselors. The good news for us is that we are already set up this way and we would anticipate only a few adjustments to meet these requirements.
The great part of this smaller group setting is that while limiting exposure, it also would allow for camp to still feel like camp. Within the group there would likely not be social distancing requirements though these would still exist for any exposure to those outside the cohort. Again, testing will play a major role in determining how this could work and the size of each cohort.
As the days go by, we can start to see a plan taking shape that will allow our campers to feel the joy of a summer at FLC and that will make sure camp feels like camp while also protecting the health and safety of our campers. While we don’t know the final shape or extent of all of our procedures at this point, we can assure you that every day that goes by we are talking about and planning based on the best information we have.
We will in the coming days announce a Zoom based town hall that we will invite all Forest Lake families to attend in order to answer your questions live about the upcoming summer.
Thank you for all your patience, encouragement and support as we navigate these unprecedented times. We hear from families every day about how much their children need camp and we are working tirelessly to make that happen safely. Meanwhile we encourage you to reach out to Caroline ([email protected]) to confirm your summer sessions as this is critical to our planning process. Thank you and please stay safe and hopeful.