We pray you, your camper, and all your loved ones are well. Summer camp 2021 may feel far away, but at Manidokan and West River we have been working for many months on plans for next summer. It was devastating to cancel our onsite programs in 2020, but we are confident we will be able to safely offer in person summer camp in 2021. While the specific circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic next summer will not come into focus until much closer to the start of camp, there are many best practices that have been developed to help camps run safely in the midst of COVID-19. (You can see guidance from the American Camp Association here)
Below you will find some broad, but necessary, changes to our summer camp programs for 2021. Specific details in each area are being worked out with guidance from our camp nurses and an infectious disease expert who is advising the Baltimore-Washington Conference of the UMC. We will continue to share more detailed plans as they are finalized and you can find the latest updates on our website.
The most significant programmatic and logistical change involves breaking the camp into cohorts, which will operate as independent units and will not intermix with other cohorts while at camp. Cohorts will be defined by the building where the campers sleep, or for day camp, will be predetermined prior to the start of camp.
- At West River this means there will be 8 cohorts each week (6 residential and 2 day). There will be no “option time” in the daily schedule as each activity will be schedule by cohort to prevent intermixing. Activities that are traditionally done as camp wide activities (WRECK time, worship, meals, etc.) will either be done separately as a cohort or done outdoors with each cohort in a designated area separated from other cohorts.
- Manidokan will offer programs with 6 residential cohorts each week. Should we be unable to host overnights, Manidokan will shift to a day program format. At times 2 cohorts (2 groups of 12 or less) will share a building for sleeping but will have separate bedrooms and other community safety practices. Cohorts will be assigned their own tables at meals and travel in vans with only their own group. Activity choices will be made as a group and not as individuals.
In order to reduce the number of contacts each camper, volunteer, and staff person has at camp, we are reducing the capacity of our programs to approximately 50% of their normal levels. This will allow for physical distancing, particularly in sleeping rooms. Many programs, and thus cohorts, will be capped at around 12 campers.
While the cohort model and reduced capacities impact some of our programs more than others, we are excited about possibilities for deeper camper connections in this small group model.
Health Screening and Monitoring
There will be an enhanced health screening at check-in to camp to identify possible exposure to COVID-19 in conjunction with an altered check-in process to limit exposure risks during arrival. You may have some pre-camp activities such as tracking your camper’s health prior to camp. During camp, all campers, volunteers, and staff will be monitored daily for symptoms and immediately isolated from the rest of the group if any symptoms are present.
Mask wearing times/locations will be a part of camp living next summer. Decisions about when and where they are required will be determined as we get closer to summer.
There will be a number of programming adjustments to make activities safer including:
- More time between groups at activities to allow for enhanced sanitation.
- Assigned equipment for each camper when possible.
- As many activities as possible will take place outside including arts and crafts, and worship.
- Meal procedures will change to include assigned tables, no shared food/drink bars, and more outdoor meals.
- Manidokan does some offsite trips, i.e. rafting and Harpers Ferry. All trips or programs with outside vendors are subject to current Covid-19 levels in our communities.
Cleaning and Sanitizing
There will also be a number of enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures including:
- All disinfectants will be EPA approved against COVID-19.
- Any area used by more than one cohort (such as the dining hall) will be disinfected between each group.
- High touch surfaces will be disinfected multiple times per day.
- Cleaning records for each building, bathrooms, and program area will be kept.
- Each building and program leader will have cleaning supplies and disinfectants for additional cleanings of each cohorts’ assigned space.
- Hand sanitizer will be located at each building entrance and program areas. Everyone will sanitizer their hands when entering or exiting the building/area.
There will be more emails from us in the months leading up to camp detailing our plans to make sure you and your camper are prepared for camp this summer. We will also be reaching out via surveys to get your input as we work towards an awesome return to camp in 2021. The summer camp brochure should be mailed to your house in the middle of January and we aim to open registration on February 1st.
Indeed, next summer at Manidokan and West River will look different than it has in the past. However, the things that make a week at camp special will still be there: caring volunteers, great staff, s’mores around the campfire, songs at worship, silly skits, screams on the giant swing and zipline, splashing in the pool, friendships that last a lifetime, tipping a canoe, stargazing, and an amazing Creator who changes lives at camp. We can’t wait to see you next summer!
Director of Retreat & Camping Ministries and The West River Center
Rev. Kirstin Shrom-Rhoads
Director of Manidokan Camp and Retreat Center