MONROE, CT — This season, Summer Fun Days Camp learned how to advance its mission to “Play, laugh and learn together” while safely distanced apart, and provide campers a sense of summertime normalcy amidst the covid-19 pandemic.
This Friday, Summer Fun Days, run by the Parks and Recreation Department, wrapped up its fourth week of camp and reached the halfway point for the summer. Spots for the next four weeks remain open for registration on the Parks and Recreation website for $250 a week for residents and $275 for nonresidents.
“The camp staff has been doing a phenomenal job keeping the kids safe and entertained. They’re using the sanitizers, they’re washing their hands, and they’re trying to give the kids a really normal summer,” Director of Parks and Recreation Missy Orosz said.
From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, the camp follows state-mandated covid-19 guidelines. The biggest change is that Summer Fun Days is now based out of Wolfe Park and not a local elementary school. On inclement weather days, the camp moves to Stepney Elementary School, where campers play outside as long as possible until bad weather hits, according to Orosz.
Orosz said she likes the setup at the park because it provides more space for activities, and campers can swim three days a week. She said she hopes to continue with this model in the future.
Campers remain distant from each other in groups of no more than 14, separated by age. There is no interaction between groups and siblings stay together. Staff wear masks at all times and ask each camper a series of health-related questions before allowing them to go to camp for the day. Due to restrictions, Summer Fun Days can no longer offer field trips and extended care hours.
“We are doing everything that we can to make sure that it is safe, clean, healthy, and fun,” Eric August, director of the camp, said.
August, who also works as a social studies teacher at Trumbull High School, said he believes Summer Fun Days is vital to restoring social development impeded by the move to online-learning in March.
“Interaction between your peers is huge,” August said. “When you’ve basically taken kids in the height of their social learning and then isolated them, camps like this are extremely important, in my opinion, to help get them back on track to where they need to be. So, you want to keep them distanced, but, at the same time, they need that camaraderie, they need that friendship, they need that interaction, they need to say something to a kid who’s their age.”
So far, camp directors are happy with the turnout and comments from parents and campers.
“The kids are really enjoying themselves. And for the first time, in a long time, they’re playing games they haven’t played in a while, they’re being athletic, they’re getting outside,” August said.
Ethan Briand, a counselor at Summer Fun Days, said his coworkers and campers are having a great summer despite the circumstances.
“The camp season is going great,” Briand said. “The kids are having fun. The counselors are having fun. Some of the restrictions kind of stink, but we’re making the most out of it — and we think the kids are having a great time.”