Indy's Child" />

Recap: Camps, Childcare and COVID-19 Webinar

Webinar: Camps, Childcare and COVID-19

Thursday, June 11 at 5:30 pm

Sponsor
Early Learning Indiana

Host
Indy’s Child Magazine

Moderator
Jennifer Erbacher, Early Learning Indiana

Panelists
Mark Lantz, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis
Christine Garza, Day Early Learning
Megan Noel, Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone
Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center
Justin Armstrong, AYS
Zach White, Conner Prairie
Brandy Zollman, Conner Prairie

How did your camp or childcare facility decide it was safe to open? What went into that discussion?

Christine Garza, Day Early Learning Indiana

Day Early Learning Indiana has 9 centers around Indy. We decided to keep all of our centers open with the exception of one that’s located inside a school building. We wanted to continue to serve those most vulnerable in the city and wanted to make sure to keep the kids that were coming to our facilities safe. We’ve been following all the appropriate guidelines. We also have a center on an IU Health property, so we have great resources coming in from the team at IU Health. We were able to implement screenings very quickly. We were also able to help families and kids of emergency and essential workers.

Megan Noel, Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone 

We have Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone at 5 locations. We had to close because of state regulations, so we quickly pivoted and put our classes online. So we were open-ish, not in physical sense but in business sense. When we talked about opening again, we spent time listening to our families to see what they wanted and what their comfort level was. Luckily we have wide open spaces at our locations, so we adapted what we were doing for a safe reopening. As it is for everyone else, keeping the children and our staff safe is our number one priority.


Why do you feel it’s important for the community that you are open?

Mark Lantz, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis

We saw a need for essential childcare and wanted to step in to fill that need. Despite everything going on, kids still need social interaction, so we wanted to make a space where kids and families could have that safely.

Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center

This week was our first week of camps. We’re seeing a lot of returning and new faces onsite. We’re seeing a very diverse group of students. Our mission is to inspire creativity for all ages. Our kids are stressed and feeling everything that we are feeling. I’m a parent of two kids who just finished e learning and it was neat to see them go to the “specials” on their Zoom links or e-learning because they wanted the chance to be creative and express what they were feeling. We began offering virtual programming before our summer camps started and we’re continuing with that for families who need that at home. We wanted to provide a platform for kids to express what’s on their hearts and minds. Our kids are needing that more than ever right now.


What is your camp’s mask policy? Will kids be required to wear them?

Christine Garza, Day Early Learning Indiana

We serve kids aged 6 weeks – 5 years old, so this was a difficult decision for us. We are requiring all adults to wear masks. We realize the social and emotional effects that come along with teachers covering their faces, so we’re looking at getting masks that have clear plastic linings so kids can see their teachers’ faces. We are asking that parents of kids over the age of 2 send masks along with the kids. We will not force anyone to wear a mask, but we will encourage them to do what’s safe.

Zach White, Conner Prairie

We’ve been wrapping up staff training and it’s been an interesting dynamic doing a week of staff training with everyone wearing masks and social distancing. As far as summer operation goes, staff will be wearing masks during drop-off and pick-up. Throughout the week, we will have groups of up to 14 campers and 2 counselors. This is an outdoor-focused program and we’ll be making use of about 200 of Conner Prairie’s 1000 acres. We are not requiring kids to wear masks. We’re looking at the forecast for next week being 97 degrees, for example, and we just don’t see kids canoeing and playing soccer with masks on. They will be social distancing, but without masks.


What are a few other safety guidelines campers might see this summer?

Justin Armstrong, AYS

Like all groups, we’re really paying attention to CDC guidelines and using that as a benchmark for how we progress. We’ve made other little changes, for instance with the drinking fountains. All youth need to bring in their own water bottles rather than using drinking fountains. The policy is for all teachers and adults to have spray bottles and sani tabs on them at all times to spray down any public touch points as we pass them through the day. Door knobs, elevator buttons, things like that. We’re maintaining a 1-15 adult to child ratio and are making sure the groups remain 10 feet apart from each other. So there will be 6 feet of social distancing within the group and 10 feet between groups. A lot of our staff are coming up with fun games to reinforce social distancing, like “show me your airplane,” so the kids stick their arms straight out to their sides to make sure they’re out of arm’s length of anything. You’ll probably hear that 20-30 times throughout the day. It’s a great way to social distance without calling anyone out for being a normal human being and craving that personal interaction.

Brandy Zollman, Conner Prairie

Typically our camps are indoors and outdoors, but we’re going to be exclusively outdoors this year. We’re setting up outdoor hand washing stations and each child will be getting a different colored handkerchief to hang on a tree and use throughout their time. Kids will also have their own water bottles, their own activity kits, and their own blankets so they can have their own space. We’ll be doing health screenings at the beginning of each week and then parents will be required to sign off on a symptom questionnaire during the rest of the week. We’ll be utilizing plenty of soapy water play as well.


How will you enforce a social distance policy? What about sports or other activities that usually involve close contact with each other?

Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center

Before we started to even think about having outside camps, we had started virtual camps. Every student who registers for a virtual camp is able to pick up their material kit that has everything they need for the week. We will continue doing that so when kids come to the camp experience at the Art Center, they have their own kit and are not using the same materials as other students are. We have set up walking directions in the building, so people hopefully will all go the same direction and there won’t be issues with crowding in the halls. Bathrooms are one person use at a time, and we’re limiting classroom sizes. We used to have camps that were up to 40 kids in a room; now we’re doing 8-10 kids in a class. Camper drop-off and pick-up will be curbside, so that will limit people coming into the building. We will try to be as efficient and safe as possible.

Mark Lantz, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis

We know that this will be tough for the little ones in our programs. We will continue with small groups and primarily spend our time outside. We’re following ACA group ratio guidelines, so no larger than 10 kids per group. We will have assigned seats and supplies for younger kids, like markers and pencils, specially for each child to use throughout the week. We will sanitize before and after use as well. We’ll only have 2-3 kids at a table and have lots of visuals to help keep kids 6 feet apart, such as hula hoops for kids to sit in. We’re also looking to our staff to be great role models and practice social distancing because we know the kids often look to and mimic what the staff do.


Are you limiting enrollment? 

Megan Noel, Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone

We’ve actually always had small ratios in our class sizes, which has lent itself to us being a little more flexible, though it varies location to location. We’re looking at 50% capacity at this point and are really limiting camp and class enrollment. We’ll also be staggering camp and class times and doing curbside drop-off and pickup as well. We’re encouraging parents to stay in their cars instead of coming in to watch the classes. We weren’t sure how that was going to go, but a lot of parents are enjoying sitting in the car and having that time to themselves!


What is the drop off/pick up procedure? Can parents/caregivers go inside?

Zach White, Conner Prairie

Our whole goal is to limit exposure, so when a parent comes to drop off their child in the morning, each group will have its own location on the property, grouped by age. Parents will sign kids in and out. It’ll be different from what it used to be. Staff will be wearing masks at pick-up and drop-off and we’re asking that parents wear masks during that time as well.

Christine Garza, Day Early Learning Indiana

This has evolved. From the beginning we eliminated all extra people from our buildings. Parents are dropping off at the front door and we’re asking health questions at drop-off. The staff then take the kids to their classrooms. We enrolled quite a few new kids in our program while we were serving emergency workers, so we have centers creating poster boards, videos, etc. so parents can stay involved and engaged. If a parent has never met a teacher, they set up a virtual meeting and get to see the classroom. We have parents now who have never seen the inside of the building, so we’re trying to keep them as engaged and involved in a safe way as possible. The virtual zoom meetings have been favorable for our families and teachers.


What are your procedures for cleaning and sanitizing frequently touched surfaces? 

Megan Noel, Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone

I’m sure all of us here are doing lots of increased cleaning at our facilities! We have small children, so we’re used to cleaning everything all the time, but we wanted to remain conscious of being in the business of creating fun and positive experiences. We don’t want to come at the kids with hazmat suits or anything like that. We have a song that we sing to remind everyone about cleaning and we’re trying to keep it light and fun, while also prioritizing safety. 

Brandy Zollman, Conner Prairie

We’re doing similar to what was talked about earlier, with personalized chairs and materials for each child. We’re limiting plastic, which we do anyway, but we know that wood has natural purifying qualities. We know that germs don’t live as well on natural materials, so we’re making sure to incorporate lots of those things into our play time, as well as cleaning and sanitizing as often as possible.


What happens if a camper or staff member is diagnosed with Covid-19? 

Justin Armstrong, AYS

We’ve been operating like this now for the better part of 8 weeks and have not had any confirmed cases. We do rely on CDC guidelines when it comes to this. If there is a confirmed diagnosis, the staff person will get the appropriate care and be taken care of through the federal coronavirus relief act. If they’re just ill and we don’t know what they have, they have to be out for 72 hours following a regular temperature without medication. Similarly, if a child is sick within the program, we will shut down the site for 72 hours and bring in deep cleaning so the site is completely deep cleaned.

Christine Garza, Day Early Learning Indiana

We actually experienced this first time at the end of March! We’ve had two staff members as well as two parents officially diagnosed. No kids have tested positive. We follow direct guidance from the CDC. In the situations we had cases, we closed all or part of the centers depending on impact to do deep cleaning. Today, for example, we dealt with this and only had to close the classroom and send home the kids in that classroom. In the event that we have staff getting sick, we’ve learned that what we’re doing is working. The cases we did see were not spread from the people who had been diagnosed. We have the resources to get free testing and we are encouraging families to take advantage of the free testing. If a staff member has symptoms, they are required to get testing. It still feels like it changes all the time, so we are continuing to evolve, staying in contact with the CDC, and constantly making sure we are doing everything we can to keep everybody safe. We can’t be complacent.


What does the next phase look like for your program? How will you determine when you can start to relax some of the new guidelines?

Zach White, Conner Prairie

Since this started back in March, we’ve been drawing up procedures, which have evolved in compliance with ACA and CDC guidelines. What we’ve evolved into and settled on is that we’re doing the best that we can to protect our campers and staff right now and we will continue doing that for the 7 weeks. Even if the state moves into the next phase, we’re going to stick to the protocols and procedures that we have in place now. This is just what camp is going to look like this summer. It’s certainly different, things looked different last year and hopefully will look different next year, but for the duration of the summer, we will stick to the policies and protocols that we have developed.

Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center

We will be bringing back onsite camps when the state goes to phase 4, but we will continue to offer virtual classes. People are liking them and we hope to keep improving them and growing our connections to community organizations.

Mark Lantz, YMCA of Greater Indianapolis

YMCA created a great plan for the centers and members, so we created our own childcare plan with the different phases. 3 YMCA centers will start swimming next week. We’ll follow suit as soon as we get word from the mayor about what we can open in Marion County. We will see what else we can offer as we begin to move through phases.


Attendee Q&A

Anyone using STEM lessons and toys in your camps this summer?

Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center

At the Indianapolis Art Center, we use what’s called STEAM to integrate the arts. In the classes and programs, there’s always a little bit of math and ingenuity, creating new colors, making a structure out of new materials – there are always those challenges. One of the camps is Science and Art, that will get you some of that experience.

Justin Armstrong, AYS

This week has been space week in AYS programs. Tomorrow afternoon, for example, our students are going on a virtual field trip to the moon through the Museum of Natural History in New York. We’re incorporating STEM resources like that. One of the great things about having these smaller group sizes is that we can individualize that programming.

Do these additional procedures inhibit your organization’s ability to make a profit? Are you accepting operating at a loss?

Jheny Nieto, Indianapolis Art Center

The Indianapolis Art Center is a nonprofit, so we’re always relying on donors, grants and community support. We’ve seen a lot of our community donors step up and support us during this time, which has made a real difference. Grants have been a blessing for these tough times also.

Megan Noel, Wright’s Gymnastics and NinjaZone

A lot of us have probably been operating at a loss in the past quarter or two. But we have had a very supportive community of parents and families who have hung in there with us. All we can do is keep showing up and keep doing it till we can’t do it anymore. We may be operating at a loss – fingers crossed that we aren’t – but right now we’re focused doing the best for the families in our community.

Zach White, Conner Prairie

These are decisions that every organization has to make for themselves and their capacities. But with what our kids have been going through the past few months, I feel grateful that we can still offer that summer camp experience to kids and families. 

Similar Articles

Comments

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

5 × 2 =

ON STANDS NOW

From our Sponsors

X
X