Smaller summer day camps start today in Ottawa

Day camps in the national capital region are starting Monday with smaller group sizes and a modified schedule of activities.

Day camps have had to change reduce activities and group sizes as part of pandemic precautions

Sophie Latreille is the founder of the Ottawa Circus School. For its summer camp, all activities will be held outside. (submitted by Sophie Latreille)

Summer day camps reopen across Ottawa today, though they'll be smaller and simpler than originally planned due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Robin Cloutier, program director with the Dovercourt Recreation Centre, says camp staff have been preparing carefully redesigned camp activities ahead of Monday.

"We have thought of every possible thing and we're ready to see kids again, for sure," Cloutier said. "I have no doubt that our camp counsellors will be able to show a smile, even through a mask."

Children will be screened by mask and face shield-wearing camp leaders as they arrive, and groups will be capped at eight campers with two supervisors.

Counsellors won't have to wear a mask during outdoor activities if distancing is possible, but they'll have to don protective gear if kids need first aid.

Smaller camps, smaller groups

The overall capacity of the Dovercourt day camp program has been significantly reduced. The day has been divided into three-hour chunks, and there won't be any field trips.

The Dovercourt Recreation Centre in Ottawa. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

All of the activities take place on the rec centre grounds in five distinct areas.

"What we have [this] week is 80 campers coming. That's a far cry from the 700-and-something that we originally had booked," Cloutier said.

For some kids, it will be their first exposures to a structured setting where they have to observe physical distancing outside the home.

"I think it will actually be less overwhelming for a child to come into this new group environment where they might not have been around kids very much for the last almost four months," Cloutier said.

Circus school walking tightrope

The Ottawa Circus School has adapted by moving its activities entirely outside, though the kids will have some shelter from the sun and rain.

"We have floor markers so that it's easy to keep all the participants at the two-metre minimum distance, and we have our hand sanitation areas all around," said Sophie Latreille, the school's founder.

Activities including unicycling, human pyramids and advanced acrobatics that might require a spotter and direct physical contact won't be part of the program until physical distancing requirements are relaxed.

"The great thing is that in the world of circus arts, there's a lot of different circus disciplines and there's a lot of different moves and there's a lot things we can do," Latreille said.

Kids will be able to literally walk a tight rope, but only about half a metre above the ground so they can safely jump off if they lose their balance, she said.

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