Ottawa prepares for 'very basic' kids camps this summer

The city is lowering expectations for families this summer, saying the camps it will offer to children will be a lot simpler than in past years..

Small groups, health checks and plenty of outdoor time planned for kids at city-run camps

Kaiden Melton, 12, has her temperature taken during a daycare summer camp at Legendary Blackbelt Academy in Richardson, Texas, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. The City of Ottawa is resuming its summer camps starting July 6. Staff and kids will undergo daily health checks, the city says. (The Associated Press)

The city is lowering expectations for families this summer, saying the camps it will offer to children will be a lot simpler than in past years.

The province announced Tuesday that child-care centres and day camps could resume this summer.

Ottawa says its summer programming will accept about half as many kids compared to a typical summer and activities will be scaled back considerably.

Dan Chenier, general manager for recreation, cultural and facility services, describes the summer program that starts July 6, officially called Camp Summer Fun, as "very basic."

"We'll have smaller groups, the focus will be, as much as possible, on outdoor activities, but everything we do will be based on games and sports that allow for physical distancing," he said.

There won't be pool time this year because staff can't ensure physical distancing in the change rooms or on transport buses, he said. Same goes for field trips. Guest speakers have also been cut to limit visitors to the camp centres.

Instead of the usual activities like performances and field trips, the focus of this summer's camps will be "individual skill learning," he said.

The City of Ottawa will offer summer camp spots to 688 kids per week or about 5,000 kids over the course of the summer.

Registration opens Monday night and it's first come, first serve. Parents who registered before the COVID-19 pandemic will have to re-register for the new camp, said Chenier, and will not be given preferential placement.

"We really can't offer as many spots in camps as we could so the fairest thing to do was to cancel the programs, return the funds and for those who wish [to register for] the more basic product, the camp we're offering this year, they can register into that program," he said.

To comply with Ontario's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, Chenier said kids will be divided into cohorts of eight children and two staff members.

The different cohorts will not mix during the day, he said. City-run camps will conduct daily health checks on children and staff on arrival and throughout the day as well, said Chenier. Any child who feels sick will be placed in an isolation room until their parents can pick them up.

with files from Ryan Jones

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