By Cayla Bamberger
Following a statewide announcement that camps can open this summer, day camps on the East End are finalizing their programs and safety measures.
New York’s summer day camps will be allowed to begin operating on June 29, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced last week. Mr. Cuomo did not immediately offer any details about cleaning, safety and distancing protocols, and the announcement does not apply to sleepaway camps.
Some trends emerge across many of the camps’ summer plans. Groups will be smaller, for example, and many camps plan to ramp up sanitation efforts. Most field trips will be canceled, and busing to and from camp might be limited or not provided.
East Hampton Sports Camp@Sportime has already been busy preparing. The camp directors got to work early, operating off of recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Camping Association (ACA), as well as Connecticut’s guidelines for summer camps, which were announced earlier than New York’s.
But the camp directors still have some big questions. “Are we going to be able serve lunch like we used to?” said Eric Scopetta, one of the directors. “Will the pool be open?”
Still, Mr. Scopetta said he remains optimistic about the necessary changes to more usual programming. “It’s going to be smaller, intimate groups,” he said, “like it used to be when we started.”
Elsewhere on the East End, the Ross School in East Hampton will host the summer camp and programs it has offered for over a decade, as well as online alternatives. Camp at the Bay Street Theater in Sag Harbor will similarly have in-person and remote options.
Mr. Cuomo’s decision comes as the state reopens parts of the economy, leaving some parents returning to work without child care. Day camps can provide a much-needed service, at a time when asking a nanny or grandparents to watch children poses health risks that some families are not willing to take.
Responding to that need, camp directors at the Country School in Wainscott are getting
creative, with a new program for Summer 2020 called “Camp Casa.” Families are encouraged to bring groups of five friends together, then, “We bring camp to them,” said Deena Zen, the director. The Country School counselors will visit a camper’s home to run several activities, including soccer, yoga, art, music and animal care. This year, Ms. Zen will also offer academic workshops, “since they missed so much,” she said.
Meanwhile, some camps have decided the risks of operating this summer are too great. Brooke Bradley from Quinipet on Shelter Island is one director who chose to cancel. Ms. Bradley and her team considered several scenarios of what programming could look like during the pandemic. However, “in each instance, the challenges pivot and become more complex, and the risks seem insurmountable,” she wrote in an open letter dated May 15.
“We are incredibly disappointed, as we know you are, too.”
However, some families and camp directors decided the benefits outweigh the risks. Krissy Feleppa, an East Hampton mom, plans to enroll her 6-year-old daughter, Fay. “While it is a bit nerve-wracking to make the decision to send her,” she wrote in a Facebook message, “I feel it would be more detrimental to her mental health to keep her home all summer and deny her the chance to interact with her peers.”
“If we make this work right, it’s going to be a very memorable summer,” said Mr. Scopetta, the East Hampton Sports Camp director. “It’s going to mean a lot to us and to the kids, and I hope we can provide it.”