Summer 2021 COVID Plans

We are excited to be planning for summer 2021 at Camp Akeela! As always, our goals of friendship, community, growth, pride and fun are guiding all of our preparation work, in addition to an unwavering commitment to the emotional and physical health of our campers and staff. The information below will inform you of some of the steps we have taken to ensure that the Akeela experience in 2021 is safe and fun for our entire camp community.

2021 COVID Handbook For Akeela Families

In addition to the detailed handbook linked above, here are the answers to some commonly asked questions.

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 of approximately one week in which the camp program is geared more towards individual cabin groups. Each of these groups, consisting of 7 – 9 same-aged campers and their 4 counselors, is the equivalent of single-family household. When interacting with bunkmates (e.g. at activities, meals, and in the cabins), no masking or physical distancing will be required.
  • As the camp session progresses and additional rounds of COVID test results come in, we plan to combine similarly aged cabin groups into larger “cohorts” for a variety of activities and increased individual choice in the camp program.
  • 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, these tweaks will not affect the essence of what makes the Akeela experience so special. 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 2020, 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!

Does my camper have to quarantine before attending Camp Akeela?

In order to limit any potential exposure to COVID, and to ensure the validity of their pre-camp COVID test result, all campers (and staff) will be required to observe prescribed “low-risk behaviors” for 10 days prior to camp. Later in the spring, we will send more specific details about what activities are permitted during this pre-camp time period.

Going to school, keeping doctor’s appointments, and getting take-out food will all be permitted, if these activities can be conducted with appropriate social distancing measures (wearing a mask, staying six feet apart from other people, and washing hands with soap and water frequently). Activities that are not allowed include getting a haircut, shopping in a mall, having dinner at someone else’s house, attending a birthday party or sleepover, going to a movie theater or sports event, and eating inside a restaurant. You will also be asked to diligently monitor and record potential symptoms in the same time period before your camp session.

What is your plan for COVID-19 testing?

We will be utilizing testing before and during the summer. Campers and staff are required to take a COVID-19 PCR test 2-3 days prior to their arrival at camp. (Additional information will be provided about acceptable tests and options for working with our testing partner.) To minimize their potential exposure both before and after this test, campers and staff will be carefully observing low-risk behaviors in the time period before camp.

We will be conducting a second PCR test and a rapid antigen test for each camper and staff member upon their arrival at camp. A week after arrivals, we plan to conduct a third round of PCR testing for the entire community. Lastly, we will also have rapid and PCR tests on hand in the case any campers or staff show symptoms of COVID-19.

Which COVID-19 PCR tests can I use before camp?

Campers are required to take a COVID-19 PCR test within the 3 day period prior to their arrival at camp. It’s critical that you select a PCR test and not a (rapid) antigen, nor an antibody test. You may select any PCR test that is available to you, as long as you’re confident that you’ll get results in time to bring them to camp with you. If you’re interested in a saliva-based test, we recommend Vault Health. Visit Vault’s camp landing page for more information.

Even campers who have been fully vaccinated are required to show evidence of a negative PCR test within 3 days prior to their first day of camp.

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. In 2021, however, doing so would increase the chance that one COVID positive camper might spread the virus to multiple cohorts on the bus ride to camp. Therefore, in an effort to make the start of camp as safe as possible, we are NOT able to bring campers to Akeela by bus this summer. Instead, we are asking every parent to drive their child to camp. (Carpooling with another camper from your child’s cabin is acceptable.) This request includes campers who will be flying to New England for their camp session; a parent or guardian must fly with them and then drive them from the airport to camp.

We recognize that this presents a significant inconvenience for our camp families and sincerely appreciate your understanding and partnership in helping to create a healthy environment for campers. The good news is that you’ll only have to make the trip once, as we do plan to bus campers back to the New York and Boston areas (including Boston Logan Airport) at the end of each camp session! Of course, if you prefer to pick up your camper at camp on the last day of their camp session, that’s an option, as well. However, we are unable to host a “visiting day” as we have in past summers.

Enrolled in 2021? See Detailed Travel Information Here (arrival and departure times, bus drop-off locations, recommended timing for flights)

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 incrementally allow more mixed-bunk and age-group activities, with appropriate precautions in place: masking, distancing, outdoors and/or ventilated spaces, etc.
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 are unable 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 will 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 are also using a large tent, adjacent to the dining hall, for additional seating during meals. This 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.
Will your staff be vaccinated?

We are working closely with our staff members to assist them in getting COVID vaccinations before camp starts. Our hope is that most, if not all, of our counselors and staff will be vaccinated. However, out of an abundance of caution, we are proceeding with our plans as if that will not be the case. In other words, we are not counting on vaccinations in a way that will change our multi-layered approach to COVID safety this summer. If vaccines provide an additional level of protection — on top of the testing, cohorting, masking & distancing, etc. — that’s even better!
What about camper vaccinations?

It is highly unlikely that all of our campers — in particular those under the age of 16 — will have the ability to be vaccinated before camp this summer. As such, camper vaccinations are not required. That said, if your child can get a vaccine before camp (e.g. they are 16 or older, or otherwise qualify in your state), we strongly encourage them to do so.

Regardless of how many Akeela campers are vaccinated, our camper COVID protocols and health practices will remain in place as planned and be applied equally to everyone. In particular, we are asking that all families practice “low-risk” activity in the week before camp, provide evidence of a negative PCR test just prior to arrival, and drive their camper to Akeela on their sessions Opening Day.

What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19 right before camp?

If a child tests positive on their pre-camp PCR test, he or she would be unable to come to camp until they isolate for 10 days, as per CDC guidelines, and are cleared by their home physician and our camp physician. We will not issue a refund for this missed time.
What happens if my child tests positive for COVID-19 while at camp?

If a camper receives a positive result from our arrival day rapid antigen test, they will not be able to start camp that day. Instead, we will ask parents to take their camper home, or elsewhere out of camp, to await the result of the PCR test, which we are also administering on opening day. (Those results should be back to us within 24 hours.) If that PCR result is positive, that child will be able to return to camp after isolating at home for 10 days, are symptom free and get cleared by their home physician. We will not issue a refund for this missed time.

If a camper tests positive for COVID-19 at another point in our camp session (e.g. when we test the entire community on the 7th day of the camp session), that child will immediately be isolated from the rest of our camper population, regardless of whether they are symptomatic or not. That camper will need to be picked up at camp by a parent/guardian within 24 hours of the positive test result. Because of the duration of the isolation period, along with the nature of contagion, it is simply not possible to keep campers in isolation at camp for the required amount of time. Children would be able to return to camp after isolating at home for 10 days, are symptom free and get cleared by their home physician.

What happens if there is a positive case of COVID-19 in my child’s cabin?

If a camper in your child’s cabin tests positive for COVID, you will be notified, and the entire cabin will enter into “Quarantine Camp.” Campers in quarantine will be tested regularly and will participate in their own camp experience within the Akeela community for up to 10 days. During this time the cabin will have a customized camp schedule that allows them to participate in camp activities, separated from campers in other cabins.
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.