Montreal

With schools shut, Montreal parents await news on summer camps

With more businesses set to reopen next week and schools closed until the fall, many Montreal parents are struggling to figure out how to keep their children busy this summer.

Summer camps are preparing COVID-19 safety protocols, but still don't know if they can open

Marie-Ève Saucier says she's usually a fun parent, but even she is running out of ideas on how to keep her children entertained. (Submitted by Marie-Ève Saucier)

As more businesses get ready to reopen next week and some people head back to work, many Montreal parents are struggling to figure out how to keep their children busy until September.

While some usually look to summer camps for relief, that may not be an option this year. 

Marie-Ève Saucier's freelance writing work has had to take a bit of a back seat for the past few months. A mother of two children, five and eight years old, she's had to shift her focus to making sure they're entertained and educated as they hole up in their Notre-Dame-de-Grâce home. 

"I've always been a playful mom but I've run out of ideas, I'm kind of tired and I'm not fun anymore," Saucier said. 

 "I feel that my kids are paying for that a little bit, so that's what's heartbreaking for me."

Saucier considers herself one of the lucky ones, with two children who play well together and a big backyard. But even with that, it's become difficult. 

She had signed them up for a day camp, in hopes it would keep their spirits up until school resumes in the fall. But recently, she received a letter from the camp, warning her that it may not go on as planned. 

"My hopes are way down for the camp," she said. 

"And you have to smile all along cause you don't want your kids to feel that, so it takes a toll on you."

Day camp 'trying to adapt'

Camps across the province are still waiting for the green light to open. Quebec Premier François Legault has said he hopes to have more direction on summer camps soon, but they have to make sure the COVID-19 situation is under control, especially in Montreal.

Theo Vecera, program director of the Don Bosco Youth Centre, has been preparing his day camp staff for the possibility of opening this year. 

"We're just trying to adapt and adjust to what the reality is." 

Part of that adjustment might include regular temperature checks for both the camp monitors and children, as well as daily questionnaires, markers on the floor to keep the children two metres apart and scheduled times for washroom use, Vecera said. 

Theo Vecera is a father of four himself and understands the importance of day camps in the community. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)

It might also mean going from accepting 500 children into the camp to accepting less than 80. 

"It breaks my heart in all honesty, because the children that we have, the 500 plus every year, we've had many of them since kindergarten and they've grown up with us," Vecera said. 

The camp serves children ages four to 15, and has been in the community of Rivière-des-Prairies in Montreal's east end for nearly 30 years. It also provides summer jobs for teenagers and young adults in the area. 

Vecera understands why he hasn't received a clear government response yet, especially with Montreal being the epicentre of the virus.

While the camp is usually ready to open by the end of June, he said he is willing to open up later in the summer if it means attendees will be safe. 

With files from Jaela Bernstien

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