P.E.I. summer camps unsure about upcoming season
'All of that is a bit up in the air right now'
After having their children at home for more than a month now, some Islanders may be looking forward to getting them out of the house this summer.
But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, some summer camps on P.E.I. are unsure what the season will look like.
Wild Child, a program that connects children 13 and younger to nature through outdoor play-based learning, was set to start its spring session on May 4, but now the camp is in a holding pattern.
Hannah Gehrels, co-ordinator for Wild Child, said she will take advice from the Chief Public Health Office on when it's safe to start up.
"We've just said that we're doing the wait-and-see thing and we're asking parents to do that as well," she said.
But if the camp is given the go-ahead, Gehrels said it will have more focus on handwashing, more hand sanitizer will be available to staff and campers and policies will be put in place that will help keep everyone safe.
"If anyone is feeling sick or anyone in the family is feeling sick, we will give a refund so that there's no financial incentive to come to our program," she said.
'We were really excited'
Employees at Wild Child were looking forward to the season, with spots filling up and the group looking to offer more programs and hire additional staff.
"All of that is a bit up in the air right now," Gehrels said.
"Even if we do get to go ahead, there may be some families that aren't comfortable with it. So there's a lot to be determined in the coming months."
Since the public health orders were put in place, new registrations for the summer programs have stopped. And if the programs aren't permitted to go forward this summer, it will have a big effect on Wild Child.
"If we can't run programs until September, that'll be a different thing for our organization and we'll have to do a lot more, kind of thinking, and figuring out," she said.
"It'll change probably who we are able to hire, or not hire, which affects, you know, people in the community."
Amber Jadis, owner of the Bricks 4 Kidz, a summer camp that uses Lego bricks for educational play, said she is "very uncertain" about the summer programming.
If we have to offer refunds for everyone that's going to hurt a little bit.— Amber Jadis, Bricks 4 Kidz
Much like Gehrels, Jadis opened up registration for her programs early in the year and had a number of people register. But because of the pandemic, registrations have stopped.
"We had a couple of students' parents withdraw just because their circumstances have changed," she said.
And while the camp does qualify for some subsidies available from the federal and provincial governments, if the public health measures extend into the summer months it could be damaging to the camp.
"If we have to offer refunds for everyone that's going to hurt a little bit," she said.
As parents might be heading back to work this summer, Jadis said she sees summer camps as having an important role to play.
"There is going to be a need for child care of some sort," she said.
Jadis said she has also been making preparations in the event camps do go ahead, including taking steps to ensure campers adhere to physical distancing as much as possible.
UPEI cancels camps
UPEI normally offers a large selection of camps through the summer months.
But, a spokesperson said the university has made the decision to cancel in-person events, gatherings and activities until July 31, 2020.
This affects the UPEI Panther Academy, AVC Tim Ogilvie Vet Camp and other academic camps and programming.