Montana summer camps adapting to COVID-19 restrictions

Posted at 9:27 AM, May 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-20 11:27:53-04

HELENA — Summer camps will be a much-needed lifeline for many families with parents having to work from home while also providing childcare.

However, COVID-19 restrictions have caused some programs to be canceled this summer, leaving many parents searching for summer options.

“Typically, by the end of March I actually have an entire spreadsheet with every week lined out. Where they’re going to be, trying to mix up a variety of camps for them to go to like sports camps and educational camps, and right now that spread sheet is empty,” said Laura Parvey-Connors.

Parvey-Connors runs a graphics design and marketing company in Helena. She’s also recently become a homeschool teacher of her two boys, a situation similar to millions of parents across the nation.

Although there have been summer camps and programs canceled, there are still many Montana organizations moving forward with their summer camp plans.

Parvey-Connors was able to find some options for her kids at ExplorationWorks this summer. The Helena organization has been working with Lewis and Clark Public Health to safely provide their camps.

“We’re working really close with the health department to make sure families can be safe,” said ExplorationWorks Executive Director Kelly Posewitz. “Each of our camps will be in separate rooms throughout the building and they’ll have their own entrances and exits.”

“We’ll have a very different check-in process that we’ve had in the past. We’ll be asking families if everyone’s been healthy and make sure students are washing their hands on a regular basis,” she added.

The science museum has developed a plan that will change depending on which phase of reopening the state is in, with less restrictions the further the state is in reopening. ExplorationWorks will also be offering more liberal refund options to encourage parents to keep kids home if they’re not feeling well.

Even with the restriction, Posewitz says parents have been nothing but thankful they’re providing any kind of summer camp.

“Most parents are just like, ‘Please tell me this is happening’,” said Posewitz. “We’re happy to say yes we’re moving forward with it and it’s something for the kids to look forward to and maybe give the parents some relief. This year it’s more important that even to have an outlet for children to come and play and explore.”

Summer camps and childcare often provide a much-needed socialization for kids, while also giving a chance for parents to get a break free of interruptions.

After homeschooling for the past two months, more than ever parents are looking for options.

“Personally, I just got the news last week that the summer program I was going to have my kids participate in for the most part of the summer was canceled,” said Posewitz.

“So now I’m scrambling just like all the other parents to try and find different activities and childcare in a safe way. I’m glad my kids are coming to camps for a few weeks here at ExplorationWorks, but piecing the rest of the summer together is hard.”

“There’s just this constant unknown out there right now and I feel like we just have to be flexible and patient,” said Parvey-Connors. “Have grace and maybe sign them up for something that we know they’ve been interested in and just hope it’s all going to work out.”

What parents should be aware of when signing their child up for a camp this year:

  • Look to see what the refund policy is and if they have to opt into a cancellation protection. Some camps are being generous about refunds, while others will only provide a refund if you pay extra for cancellation protection.
  • See what the instructor to child ratio is. Montana will be entering phase two of reopening beginning June 1, which will allow camps to have larger gatherings.
  • Look into any health precautions the organization may require. Some camps are asking children to wear masks or bring hand sanitizer.

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