Parents ‘in limbo’ as summer camps decide whether to cancel

With schools closed, there’s a lot of uncertainty for parents about what happens next. One question is whether summer camps will be called off due to ongoing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic, but firm answers are hard to come by.

“We’re kind of in limbo,” said Maria Farnham, from La Plata, Maryland. “I’m not sure what kind of activities there will be available for children.”

Two of Farnham’s four children were set to attend a summer camp in western Maryland, but that has been canceled. She is still waiting to hear from a local baseball camp on whether that one will be canceled as well.

“It’s going to be hard trying to figure it out,” Farnham said. “If the economy opens back up and some of the parents have to go back to work, where are the children going to go?”

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Some camps have already notified families they won’t open due to the coronavirus crisis. Most, however, are in wait-and-see mode.

City officials in Alexandria, Virginia, just announced that summer camp registration was suspended “until further notice.”

“Previously planned summer camps and programs may need to be adjusted to accommodate the current stay-at-home order and physical distancing guidelines, as well as the potential for new state guidance for the summer months,” officials said.

The Fairfax County Park Authority said in a message to registered camp families that it isn’t “100% sure” whether it’ll be able to host camps yet.

“We are deep cleaning our facilities, making improvements while we are closed, and awaiting further guidelines,” the county’s park authority said in its message. “Rest assured that if any of our programs are canceled, customers would receive a full refund without a cancellation penalty.”

With the start of the season approaching, many camps are monitoring the pandemic’s progress and crunching the numbers on potential mass refunds. Some parents have held off putting money down, with camps extending deadlines for enrollment.

“Right now it’s such a dynamic situation,” said Tom Rosenberg, president and CEO of the American Camp Association. “The camps themselves are trying to be adaptable and flexible as more information becomes available.”

Nationwide, more than 22 camps have plans to pivot to “online camp” this summer. Other camps are looking at limiting field trips and visitors’ days, or pushing back start dates.

The thought of no camp is a dark one for parents already frazzled by taking on home school and keeping kids entertained during the stay-at-home order. The prospect is just as bleak for camp directors.

“It’s an existential threat to not be able to operate,” Rosenberg said. “What we do know is kids need camp more than ever.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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