The six clubhouses of the Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio plan to open on June 1 at roughly one-third of a regular summer’s capacity, CEO Angie Mock said. But that can happen only if Gov. Greg Abbott allows it.
Abbott last addressed the issue at a press conference on April 27, acknowledging that camps play a vital role for parents and kids over the summer, but he didn’t include them in the list of businesses allowed to reopen at the time. Abbott’s medical team is developing guidance for camps to ensure children remain safe if they attend, he said.
With the 2019-20 school year set to end soon for students across the state and parents called back to work as sectors of the economy reopen, summer camps are likely to play an essential role in bridging academic gaps formed during the coronavirus pandemic and providing an alternative to child care. The demand for summer programming is clear, Mock said.
“When the limited return-to-work order was issued, that’s when parents began to call us daily,” she said. “What are they [parents] going to do? They need to return to work but they don’t need to have their elementary school-aged child stay at home alone.”
Should summer camps be allowed to open, programming likely would look very different from previous summers, with precautions enforced to keep kids and camp staffers safe.
At Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio, the number of campers would decrease significantly. On an average summer day, about 1,000 kids attend camp at the six clubhouses. In what Mock calls the first phase of reopening, there would be only 10 campers to every one staff member, cutting the number of campers to about 360.
If conditions improve, this number could increase, Mock said. The clubhouses plan to follow all guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, picking kids up from their cars and doing temperature checks before anyone enters the building.
Camp officials at the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas are discussing similar safety protocols, Chief Development and Communications Officer Stephanie Finleon Cortez said.
The Girl Scouts operate two camps in the area, a day camp and a weeklong sleep-away camp, located in Utopia.
The start of programming at Camp Metro, held at the West Side Girl Scout Leadership Camp, would be delayed until June 22 should camps be allowed to operate. Once open, the day camp would be limited to 25 percent occupancy, with the hope of ramping up to 50 percent when conditions allow.
Camp leaders would implement daily screening questions and temperature checks. They also are considering how to best implement protective face coverings.
At Camp La Jita, the first five weeks of camp would be held virtually. Girl Scouts could register for daily programming and camp officials would mail every participant an activity pack. Each day, camp staff would produce two live video segments and have campers watch two recorded segments.
Girl Scouts officials hope that by late July, Camp La Jita can host a limited resident camp experience for 20 girls per week, with two campers per cabin. That’s a shift from the normal experience, with four to eight campers living together. They’d implement safe social distancing at mealtimes and flag ceremonies.
Finleon Cortez said everything hinges on two things: orders that allow the Girl Scouts to operate camp safely and a progression to applicable phases of the San Antonio and Bexar County COVID-19 Health Transition Team’s report.
Nonresidential summer camps are included in Phase 2 of the team’s reopening plan. Phase 2 depends on a sustained decline in new COVID-19 cases, robust testing and contact tracing capabilities, and adequate hospital facilities for those who are sick.
Residential summer camps are included in Phase 3. The transition team describes Phase 3 as “a further easing of restrictions that would be possible in the setting of effective treatment or other medical or public health advances.”
Abbott’s orders could supersede any local guidance, though.
“We [need to know] that we can confidently and safely offer summer camp. If at any point that is in question, we’re going to have to cancel camp and not do anything in person and go strictly virtual,” Finleon Cortez said.
The Magik Theatre is taking a “wait and see approach” to in-person camp until Abbott offers further direction, spokesman Anthony Runfola said. Online classes started May 2.
Officials with The DoSeum said they continue to explore potential camp models for this summer but await further direction from the City and State.
At SAY Sí, in-person programming will not resume until “it is safe for 100 percent of our youth to return,” spokesman Stephen Guzman said via email.
“While the state has issued small businesses to be open at 25 percent capacity, this structure will not work for an organization like ours that has a committed and long-term student base,” Guzman wrote. “We can not randomly choose 25 percent of our population to serve.”
For now, the arts organization offers biweekly art supply pickups and weekly virtual meetings to keep students engaged.
While the organization hasn’t made any concrete decisions on summer camps moving forward, officials are exploring how to offer virtual summer camps and share at-home activities for families to do together.
Disclosure: Boys and Girls Clubs of San Antonio CEO Angie Mock is a member of the Rivard Report board.