La. governor’s restrictions on public gatherings leave summer camps in limbo

Updated: May. 4, 2020 at 6:00 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - If you were planning to send your children to a summer camp this year, you may have to start re-thinking your plan.

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards’ restrictions on public gatherings are upending the plans of many organizations that offer summer day camps.

“Right now, we’re restricted to 10 people gathering, and so there’s not much you can do with a camp with 10 people,” BREC Superintendent Corey Wilson told WAFB.

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Wilson said that beginning June 1, BREC will likely not be able to open its day camps. Many of the capital region’s other day camps are in the same boat.

It’s all a question of how to handle child care and return to work as the state eases work restrictions.

“You have some people concerned about the virus,” Wilson said. “Some people concerned about, am I going to have somewhere to put my kids.”

Most summers, parents around Baton Rouge rely on day camps to keep kids occupied and safe while they are at work. With tight restrictions on gathering sizes, this year is going to look very different.

“We know it’s not going to be like previous years where we have 40 kids in one location, and 40 different locations around the parish,” Wilson said. Right now, he said BREC will not offer on-site, in-person camps when the traditional start of summer camp begins June first.

And BREC is not alone. Wilson and Pat Van Burkleo of The Boy’s and Girl’s Club of Greater Baton said they see virtual summer camps this year as a possibility this year. Each organization is scrambling to partner with local and national organizations to provide content.

“We’re not just sitting watching videos,” Wilson said, “but participating actively with a counselor, and gradually moving to in-person type deals.”

As the state phases in more non-essential businesses, Wilson says the problem then becomes one of staffing and which kids to accept into limited openings.

One organization hoping to open as usual is the Capital Area YMCA. It benefits from having larger campuses and more space to house kids, and still stay within the state-mandated guidelines.

“We have the ability to space kids out,” said Christian Engle, president, and CEO of Capital Area YMCA.

On a regular summer day, the YMCA can see up to 800 kids. Even though it plans to open in-person camps as soon as the governor allows it, those camps will look different.

“We will be managing our ratios,” Engle said. That means smaller class sizes. Parents should start to prepare now.

“It’s a challenge,” Wilson said. “We’re going to do our best, obviously. The big thing is how do we keep kids safe. How do we keep our staff safe, at the same time providing a much-needed resource for parents.”

It’s a resource that will likely be scarce, at least in the early summer.

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