How P.E.I. summer camps will run under COVID-19 restrictions

Summer camps on P.E.I. have made big changes to their programs or have been forced to outright cancel this year because of COVID-19.

Programs created, modified or outright cancelled

Most of the summer camp programming at the MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project is done outdoors, but the camp is reducing the number of available spots so proper physical distancing measures can be followed. (Submitted by Daniel McRae )

Summer camps on P.E.I. have made big changes to their programs or been forced to outright cancel this year because of COVID-19.

Day camps on the Island are able to start under Phase 3 of the province's ease-back plan. In Phase 3, which is scheduled to start on June 1, gatherings of 15 people indoors and 20 people outdoors will be permitted. 

Under those guidelines, Bricks 4 Kidz, a science and technology camp, has started planning for what will be a different summer. It plans to start its programming June 15.

"We want to make sure we don't exceed the 15 people indoors during Phase 3," said Amber Jadis, who owns the camp. 

"If more are permitted as the summer progresses we will be able to invite students from the waiting list." 

'Certainly different'

The camp has cut group sizes in half, only offering spaces for 10 children when programs first start. The other spots will be for counsellors and cleaning staff. 

While the camp normally has a focus on collaboration and teamwork, involving all the kids working out of the same bag of Lego, that won't happen this year.

Campers at Bricks 4 Kidz won't be surrounding one large bag of Lego this summer. (Submitted by Amber Jadis)

"It's certainly different for us," she said. 

"They won't be able to be 10 kids gathered around a big bag of Lego, building and sharing together, that's not going to happen this summer."

Jadis said each student will have their own set of supplies for the week, which will be cleaned daily.

The camp also has outdoor activities, and Jadis said staff are working to come up with ways to make sure the students stay physically distanced. 

We figure it's a good way to try to help out and provide parents some relief for child care.— Daniel McRae, MacPhail Woods

"I'm thinking about putting the challenge out to our students as well to help us develop some games because it's a good engineer and design process," she said.

"I mean we have a challenge here, we have a problem to solve, and who's better at coming up with games than kids themselves."

MacPhail Woods Ecological Forestry Project offers outdoor camps through the summer, and the nature of their camps helps when it comes to physical distancing, said Daniel McRae, who runs the camps. 

"It makes some of the shifting pretty minor," he said. "There's lots to think about, but they're not big shifts."

Smaller camp sizes

Even though it's primarily outdoors, the camp is looking at reducing the number of spots available. 

"We'll probably be running a 15-person camp. And that also includes the counsellors who will be involved with it too. So we won't have as much room this year, which is really too bad," he said.

Because organizers didn't think physical distancing was possible, Holland College's culinary boot camps have been cancelled for the summer. (Submitted by Brodie Coffin)

"We do have an indoor centre that has bathrooms and we do some art activities and science activities up there. And some of those are an integral part of the camp, a lot of the kids look forward to them. So we're going to try to reduce the numbers here just to make it a little easier." 

And because of the pandemic, MacPhail Woods is looking to offer summer programming in June, something it hasn't done in past years.

"We're still in the process of setting those up and getting the dates and getting the parents emailed and that kind of thing," he said.

With these types of guidelines in place it's just not something that we felt comfortable doing this summer.— Brodie Coffin, Holland College

"We figure it's a good way to try to help out and provide parents some relief for child care as well as giving the kids something to do and another way to learn after doing so much homeschooling." 

Some camps on the Island have decided that the best course of action is to cancel and try again next year. 

'Not something that we felt comfortable doing'

All of the summer culinary boot camps at Holland College have been cancelled, said Brodie Coffin, director of ancillary services at the college. 

Coffin said staff were looking at ways to do the culinary themed boot camps — mapping out kitchens and trying to figure out how it could work — but ultimately staff realized it wasn't realistic. 

"The six-feet proximity in the kitchens, especially you have a lot of young kids coming in, you know within that seven- to 10-year-old range, you can't have them working alone," he said.

"With these types of guidelines in place it's just not something that we felt comfortable doing this summer."

Alanna Green, program manager with the Canadian Red Cross on P.E.I., says the water safety camps couldn't proceed with the physical distancing requirements. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

In a normal year, the Red Cross also offers a number of water-safety camps across the province, from swimming lessons to canoe and kayak courses. But, those have all been cancelled this year.

"When you're talking about rescuing people and when you're teaching children that are just learning how to swim and learning to be safe in and around the water and potentially being able to keep them safe while they're in the water, we need to be within closer than arm's reach," said Alanna Green, program manager for the Red Cross on P.E.I.

"We've had to use those parameters and considering what social distancing and keeping those health procedures in place that we just couldn't really move forward," she said.

About 600 people take part in the courses every year, said Green. This year, about 200 people had already registered.

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