See some commonly asked questions below.
- Can you give me a summary?
Absolutely! The takeaway is that we are opening Camp Akeela this summer, and that we have a lot of plans and procedures ready to go!
Here are the basics of what to expect from camp, as of now:
- We will take extensive measures to create a self-contained community of healthy young people for the entirety of our two camp sessions.
- All campers and staff will be monitored, assessed and tested prior to arrival, upon arrival, and beyond.
- We will begin camp with a period individual cabin groups are the equivalent of single-family “pods”. Meals, activities and all daily logistics will be coordinated to keep campers and counselors of each cabin group physically distant from individuals in other cabin groups.
- There will be a lot of cleaning and sanitizing … and even more handwashing and hand-sanitizing.
- We are confident in our ability to respond if a case of COVID were to be discovered at camp.
- Camp will not be exactly the same as it was in 2019 and before. There will be times when campers and staff are asked to wear masks. Some of the program and daily logistics will feel different. However, the essence of Akeela will be as present and as strong as ever. We will be together, surrounded by friends, in a beautiful place, enjoying all that camp has to offer. We can’t imagine a time in our lives when camp is more important.
- Has Vermont approved summer camps to open in 2021?
Yes. In fact, since the spring of 2020, the State of Vermont has been very supportive of camps, working closely with camp directors to establish guidelines and best practices for opening camps safely. (We ran Family Camps in 2021, under our regular youth camp license.) While some of the details for 2021 – e.g. maximum group sizes allowed in indoor spaces, quarantine and testing protocols – are yet to be finalized, we feel 100% confident that Vermont camps will be encouraged to open this summer with the full endorsement of the State.
Vermont recognizes that camp has never been more important for the health and development of children than it is right now. They also know that camps are almost uniquely positioned to provide safe environments for children in a COVID world. For starters, overnight camps like us can create our own “bubbles”. That’s part of what makes camp so magical in a typical summer: we bring campers and staff into an intentional community that is both distinct from the “outside world” in a figurative sense and that is literally a self-contained community.
Additionally, most summer camps are fortunate enough to have expansive properties on which almost all activities take place outdoors. At Akeela, we plan to use our 400 acres of lakefront property to its fullest!
- Do you have COVID-19 policies in place?
Yes. We have created extensive guidelines to proactively create safe programs by limiting the spread of communicable disease. All practices were developed to meet or exceed guidelines put forth by the American Camp Association (ACA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the State of Vermont’s Department of Health. This Q&A will give you a brief glimpse into some of our plans, as they stand to date. Details with updated policies will be available to families as we get closer to the summer.
- Are you adding any screening procedures?
The health of the camp community is our top priority. To that end, several procedures will be in place to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 being brought into Camp. In addition to quarantining and testing (see questions and answers on these topics below), we plan to pre-screen our campers and staff prior to their arrival. Upon arrival, our Health Center staff will complete a health check of each camper and staff member. Throughout the session, we will perform daily screenings to ensure the ongoing health of our camp population. We have a quarantine protocol in place for any community member who becomes symptomatic and requires isolation.
- Does my camper have to quarantine before attending Camp Akeela?
As of now, we anticipate that all campers will be required to quarantine for 7 days prior to Camp. Contact should be restricted to members of the household only. No physical contact with anyone outside of the household will be permitted unless absolutely necessary.
We ask all household members to take appropriate social distancing measures (wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from other people, and washing hands with soap and water frequently) during the week prior to camp as well. During the quarantine, and the week prior, all Camp families will log daily temperatures of their camper and self-screen for COVID-19 symptoms on a form Camp Akeela will provide, which will be reviewed by our camp medical staff.
We understand that some campers are not able to fully socially distance for 7 days before camp, for circumstances beyond their control. If this is the case for your camper(s), please reach out to our office so we can discuss your family’s situation and whether we are able to accommodate your child.
- What is your plan for COVID-19 testing?
We are prepared to utilize testing before and during the summer, assuming it continues to be seen as a valuable screening tool. We have been in regular contact with our local health care providers and authorities; we will continue to partner with them to make sure that our protocols are consistent with their recommendations.
As things stand at the moment, we anticipate requiring a pre-camp COVID-19 test 2-3 days prior to arrival at camp. Additional information will be provided about acceptable tests and options for working with our testing partner(s). As mentioned above, all staff and campers will be required to quarantine before and after the pre-camp test, to maximize testing accuracy. We plan to do a secondary test upon arrival at camp, and are prepared to conduct additional testing part-way through the camp session. We will also have tests on hand in the case any campers or staff show symptoms of COVID-19.
- How will campers get to and from Camp?
In a typical summer, we provide transportation to camp from central points in the New York and Boston areas, including Boston Logan Airport. There is a possibility that in 2021, as a COVID-19 precaution, we will be asking families in the Northeast to bring their campers to Akeela by car, whenever possible. If that’s the case, parents and caregivers can drive their own vehicle or carpool with another family from their child’s camp pod (cabin) on Opening Day of their camp session.
We do anticipate being able to accommodate campers who cannot drive to camp, including those flying to the region. We will provide transportation details to those families when the applicable health recommendations are available to us. In the meantime, we ask for your patience and that you share our optimism, even in the absence of precise guidance from the State of Vermont.
The closed nature of the “camp bubble” means that our entire camp community will be a single “pod” by the end of each camp session. This will allow us to provide all campers bus transportation back to the Boston and New York areas on Closing Day.
- What about visitors?
To ensure we keep the Camp quarantine “bubble” intact, visitors will not be permitted. When it is necessary for vendors, delivery services and/or facility repair personnel to come into camp, those individuals will be masked and will maintain physical distance from campers and staff.
- Will there be limitations on group sizes?
During the first week or so of the session, campers will be in a pod with just their bunkmates and counselors. Once everyone has tested and re-tested negative for COVID-19, we expect to allow mixed-bunk groupings and ultimately even all-camp gatherings.
When campers and staff need to interact with people outside of their pod, they will meet two out of the following three criteria: masked, outdoors, and physically distanced by at least six feet.
- Will there be any activity restrictions?
For a period of approximately 1 week at the start of the camp session, each cabin group will be a “pod”. In other words, campers will participate in all scheduled activities with their cabin group and will remain socially distanced from all other cabins. As the session progresses, provided that everyone has tested and re-tested negative for COVID-19, we will be able to gradually expand those pods. Ultimately, that will translate into a return to more traditional Akeela programming, including unit activities, individual electives (“specialty” periods), and all-camp programs such as evening activities and special events. We’ll provide more details as the summer approaches.
While we may not be able to visit some of our typical destinations on trip days for older campers, we do anticipate continuing our day hikes and offering our full array of optional outdoor adventure trips: overnight camping, biking, canoeing and rock climbing. The off-site therapeutic horseback riding program may or may not be offered this summer.
- How will meals work?
Some of the details may look different this summer, but we are as committed as ever to providing our camp community with delicious and nutritious food … as well as to maximizing variety and choice in the menu.
We are fortunate to have a spacious, well-ventilated dining hall with extensive seating on a covered porch. We also plan to use adjacent outdoor areas for additional seating during meals, which will allow us to provide even more distance between tables.
In terms of food service, our focus is always on safety, including compliance with specific COVID-19 best practices recommended by the Department of Health and the American Camp Association. Fortunately, our existing culture of eating each meal “family style” with one’s bunkmates and counselors lends itself well to these new standards, which means not much will change. However, we are certainly anticipating the elimination salad bars and changes to events such as all-camp cookouts.
- Will campers and staff be required to wear masks?
In order to contain possible exposure and spread of COVID-19, we are requiring face masks that cover both the nose and mouth when campers and staff are in close proximity or are sharing indoor space with another pod.
Masks will not be required when campers and staff are located inside their own cabins and when they are outdoors and more than six feet apart from any other pod.
Campers should bring eight washable masks with them to camp, and a mesh bag to wash them in. We will wash masks approximately once a week.
- What additional sanitizing and cleaning will be performed?
Akeela has always employed a wonderful, dedicated team of staff members who clean and sanitize our cabin bathrooms. For 2021, we will add the disinfecting of high touch surfaces and camp’s common areas to their list of responsibilities. Additionally, each activity and program area will be sanitized before and after each activity period. Hand sanitizer will be readily available and hand washing protocols will be established throughout the day.
- How will Akeela respond to a potential COVID-19 case or positive test?
All medical staff are trained to identify COVID-19 symptoms and respond. Any camper or staff who presents COVID-19 symptoms will be taken to our quarantine space and remain isolated. We will conduct a COVID-19 test and the family of the camper/staff will immediately be contacted by a director or camp health professional, who will partner with the family to implement a plan for testing and treatment.
- How will the presence of a vaccine affect our plans for Camp?
While we are hopeful that a vaccine will be widely available before the summer, we are proceeding with our plans as if that will not be the case. If it turns out that vaccination has a significant positive impact on the virus’ spread, all the better; we will adjust our plans accordingly.
- Will a vaccine be required for all campers and staff?
As we write this FAQ, the vaccine’s availability and efficacy for children is still unknown. As more information becomes available, we will work with local and regional health officials to determine whether or not vaccination is encouraged and/or required for campers.
We are somewhat more hopeful that staff members, as “childcare providers”, will be eligible for one of the earlier vaccine distribution phases. If that is the case, and the scientific evidence shared with us by the health professionals with whom we work supports vaccination of staff as a community health measure, we may require staff to receive the vaccine before arriving at camp.
- What if someone in my family is immunocompromised?
Individuals who are immunocompromised – as defined by their medical professional – or live in a home with an immunocompromised person should consult with their doctor(s) before deciding whether or not to participate in a Camp program.
Though we are taking extensive actions to keep our community safe, Camp Akeela is not able to guarantee that a person on our site will not be exposed to COVID-19; thus, participation in a camp program during the Coronavirus pandemic is not recommended for individuals with known vulnerabilities that put them at greater risk.
If you have any concerns about this policy, please contact our office to set up a time to talk with a member of our director team.