It’s almost summertime and camps are open for business — the business of fun, that is. Kids across the Southland are looking forward to returning to some of the normalcy that was missed last season, and this includes getting back to some of their favorite summer camps in the flesh.
Of course, summer camp won’t be without changes as these organizations are following guidelines and practicing the latest COVID-19 safety protocols. The camp experience will look quite different, and one of those changes will begin with the ride to camp.
For a great many local day camps, transportation to and from the location is not only an integral part of the camp experience — it can also help out the working parent. Aloha Beach Camp, based in Malibu, is one such camp. Welcoming campers from ages 4-15, this outdoor, water-based camp has been in operation for more than 22 years. Co-founder Eric Naftulin says, “Many families that come, both of the parents work and they rely on us.”
Wheels (and fans) go ‘round and ‘round
Naftulin says that Aloha Beach Camp will follow strict health and safety guidelines while using buses to transport kids to camp locations, pick-up and drop-off points. For a tentative list of those points, visit the website.
The camp’s transportation plan begins with “the kids being socially distanced and sitting every other seat, and the counselors will ride the buses with the kids,” Naftulin says. Children will also be required to wear masks, and there will be temperature checks before boarding the bus.
Happy campers will be even happier to learn that the buses have their own system of health rules. “The buses will be disinfected at least three times a day: before the campers get on in the morning, before they get back on in the evening and after they exit,” Naftulin says.
These safety steps are also on the checklist when riding on the bus bound for Cali Camp, which is located in Topanga Canyon and was established in 1955, making it one of the oldest day camps in the L.A. area. Cali Camp follows the traditional day camp model with kids in groups sporting fun names and participating in a range of activities including horseback riding, dance and martial arts. Cali Camp director Kassandra Wilsey says that along with temperature checks, mask-wearing and more distancing on the bus, “campers will [sit] one of three ways: either by themselves, with a family member or a sibling or in one of their camp groups.”
Parents might be relieved to know that both Cali Camp and Aloha Beach Camp will be keeping the airflow turning along with those wheels on the bus. “We’ll have the windows down because we know that airflow is really important,” Wilsey says.
For families who prefer sticking to their own pod during transit, driving your child is allowed at both day camps. Specific check-in times are given for arrival, and health screenings will occur at the time of drop-off.
Parents as designated drivers
So, what happens when your family car is the primary mode of transportation to and from your favorite day camp?
No doubt each camp’s procedures will differ, but KidzToPros summer day camp’s plan involves parents dropping off and picking up directly from the premises. KidzToPros has several L.A. County locations offering a robust curriculum focused in four different enrichment areas. Pooja Shah, who founded the company in 2016, says, “Parents can choose to send their child to a STEM, arts, makerspace or sports camp.”
When it comes to morning drop-off practices, “We take temperature checks while the child is seated in the car, and only if the child has no fever would they be allowed to leave the car,” Shah says.
After camp ends and pick-up time begins, parents remain in their car and give a staff member their name. “We walkie-talkie the student from their cohorts, and the student is brought to their parent’s car,” Shah explains. This limits the amount of student interaction because keeping campers and their families’ safe is top priority.“
Getting to overnight camps
While summer day camps provide an opportunity to engage in activities that enrich and inspire, overnight camps help kids immerse more deeply in the summer camp experience. Woodward West Camp, located a little over two hours north of L.A., in Tehachapi, was started 50 years ago in Woodward, Penn. Today, it is a week-long residential overnight camp, focusing on activities such as gymnastics, cheerleading, skateboarding and BMX biking.
Woodward West Camp Director Lisa Pham says that in the past they’ve used buses to pick up kids from major California airports and other established locations to transport them to their facilities. However, at the time of this writing, overnight camps were still waiting on their official summer safety guidelines. Check overnight camps’ websites for updates.
The great unknown about overnight camp transportation didn’t stop some parents from planning ahead. In late April, Pham says BFFs were already showing interest in podding together for the entire camp experience. This would involve parents driving a group of friends to camp, the friends staying in the same cabin and then departing together once camp was complete. “I think a lot of families might do that,” Pham says.
Whether your kids’ camp experiences involve a school bus, a family car, or is shaping up to be a road trip with friends, your favorite camp is ready to keep everyone safe with the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local protective guidelines. “The camp experience is going to stay fairly streamlined,” Wilsey says.
Camp officials’ main objective is for kids to once again be able to focus on all the unique fun and memory-making that camps offer during summer break.
Tonilyn Hornung is an author and freelance writer who lives with her husband, son, many furry friends and never enough closet space.