Good news for kids (and their parents): It looks like things will be back to normal for Connecticut campers this summer. Almost.
The Center for Disease Control recently issue guidelines for both day and overnight camps in which they “strongly encourage” COVID-19 vaccinations for campers and staff and suggest sticking with safe outdoor activities – as opposed to activities that keep campers indoors.
With classrooms only days away from packing up for the summer break, and camp on the near horizon, we asked Jewish summer camp directors around the state what the camp experience will look like this season – and whether kids throughout Connecticut can expect a summer filled with lots of fresh air fun!
Here’s what a few had to say.
Session: June 27 – August 15
Family Camp Weekend: June 11-13
“We are absolutely running this summer,” says Rabbi James Greene, executive director of Camp Laurelwood, Connecticut’s only Jewish overnight camp.
Last summer, due to COVID-19, overnight camps in Connecticut were not allowed to open. Instead Laurelwood offered three weeks of Family Camp and 75 hours of virtual programming throughout the summer.
This summer will be different.
“The State of Connecticut has given some guidance, but we are also following the guidance from the American Camp Association which studied camps that opened last summer as well as the best practices that have emerged since. In our cabins, campers will live as a ‘pod’ without social distancing. I think that campers will love being back home at Laurelwood, and we could not be more excited to welcome them!” says Greene.
Laurelwood will offer its usual camp fare — swimming, sports, song sessions, Shabbat, tennis, basketball, softball, martial arts, boating, and a high and low ropes course. The camp’s two swimming pools have been renovated and there are new basketball courts. Also new is a garden area where campers will grow vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and a chicken coop – both part of a new nature program.
“Rather than thinking about what is not possible. We have approached this summer with the mindset that everything is possible and we have worked to make every experience at Camp as safe as possible,” says Greene. “Camp is the place where our campers and staff build the world they aspire to live in and where we help them connect, explore, and inspire. After a year of isolation, camp is the perfect place for campers to unplug from their computer screens and re-engage with their Jewish culture and values in an in-person setting. Camp has 84 years of experience with this special technology, and we are ready to help campers return to a sense of normalcy with another magical summer at Camp Laurelwood.”
Sports Jams –
Mandell JCC Swim and Tennis Club
Sports Jams camps includes 10 weekly sessions in a variety of sports, including tennis, karate, golf, soccer, cheerleading, triathlon, and basketball.
The JCC’s Sports Jams program operated last summer with limited hours and services. This year things will be different, says Sports Jam director Thai Tran, sports director at the Mandell JCC of Greater Hartford and director of the JCC’s Sports Jams summer program.
“Cohorts are still required to be distanced from other cohorts; and group size has increased from 14 to 20 for each cohort,” Tran explains. “We are continuing to adopt the new guidelines with small cohorts. We will be opening full day 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. this year instead of just the half day option. We are also offering after care until 5:30 p.m. In addition, we are bringing back most of the sports and activities we did previous summers before Covid.
“Our campers’ safety is our number one priority. We will continue to clean, disinfect, and sanitize all surfaces and equipment before and after each usage.
“Summer at our Sports Jams camps is about teamwork, building friendships, having fun and being active. Children need socialization and being active is very important for their physical and mental development. We provide a safe and fun environment where they get learn and play their favorite sports with old and new friends. Campers are active and engaged in a fun week of sport development under the guidance of experienced and talented instructors. All of our summer Sports Jams programs place an emphasis on sportsmanship, high energy, and fun.”
JCC Summer Day Camps
JCC of Greater New Haven
(203) 387-2424 ext. 253
Session: June 21 – August 13
“The JCC Day Camps ran last summer for 10 successful weeks,” said Alison Lurie, assistant director of the JCC Day Camps, a program of the Jewish Community Center of Greater New Haven. “We had approximately 180 campers for each session. We currently have 220 enrolled [for 2021]… We plan to run it the same as last summer with the COVID protocols in place.”
Activities at the JCC Day Camps in New Haven last year included arts & crafts, nature, music, drama, swimming gaga, archery and more. This year the camp will add a low ropes course as well as a woodworking program.
“Going to camp and being with their friends will help restore some normalcy,” says Lurie of her campers. “It was an amazing experience last summer and was a truly rewarding experience. Camp is a place where children feel safe and can just have fun.”
Camp Gan Israel of Greater New Haven
at Barnard Magnet School 1
Session: June 28-Aug. 6
Last summer, during the COVID-19 crisis, Camp Gan Israel of Greater New Haven (CGI) operated in cohorts, each with a maximum of 14 children. Each cohort operated completely independently and no two groups intermingled.
“This year we expect to run in a similar fashion, although the maximum cohort size is slightly bigger,” said Chanie Wilhem, CGI co-director. “Busing was not an option last summer, and our campers were transported to trips on vans; this year the state is allowing groups on buses as long as each group can be socially distant.”
Wilhelm said that while some normalcy is returning, Covid will still influence camp protocol this summer.
“As we did last summer, we plan once again to rent drinking stations for each group to replace communal water fountains, as well as hiring staff to sanitize and disinfect shared areas,” she said.
In addition, says Wilhelm, the pools will be open with limited capacity, with restrictions on how many campers are allowed in the pool at once. New activities this summer will include an expanded on-site game zone with new arcades, a new fleet of EzyRollers, Kangoo Jumps, hands-on animal programs, and some new outdoor games including 9 Square in the Air and AirOSport.
“Camp is more important than ever for our children,” Wilhelm says. “Everyone has been affected by Covid – whether it’s anxiety, disruption of schooling, lack of consistent routine, less movement/exercise, lack of social interaction.
CGI is accredited by the American Caping Association (ACA) and adheres to all safety guidelines.
Main Photo: CGI campers will get back in the saddle again in 2021.