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Parents Are Making A Plan B When It Comes To Summer Camps In 2020

Even though Gov. Ron DeSantis said that summer camps will be allowed to open during the coronavirus pandemic, not all camps are doing so - and not all parents want to send their children either.
Susan Giles Wantuck/WUSF Public Media
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Now that the school year is coming to a close, parents are trying to figure out what their children will do this summer.

Many camps are being canceled, and even if they aren't, some parents don't feel comfortable sending their children out during the coronavirus pandemic.

Jason and Melissa Gray of Dunedin have two daughters, 11-year-old Julia and 7-year-old Lucy. Melissa said they figured out when school was shut down that camp probably would be too.

Melissa works at their local Chabad as a self-proclaimed "Jill of all trades."  That is the organization which has held the camp their daughters have attended for the past few years.

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"We were already starting to kind of scramble for because it was a field-trip based camp. So every day we would start out, and for the last three or four years, you'd start out the morning, all the kids together in one big room, we do some exercises and some warm-up, and then all pile into the big camp van and go off for our field trip for the day.

"So as soon as we got word of like, things are starting to not be open and available, we started kind of like, 'Uh-oh, well, if this is the way things are gonna go, this is not gonna go.'"

But Jason, whose mother and brother are health care providers, is also concerned about the possibility of another coronavirus surge. He said the camp closure wasn't the only thing that weighed in their decision to keep their girls home this summer.

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"We are more concerned with the preservation of life than we are with being out and doing things. So we're being more cautious...because we don't want to put our kids or ourselves or anybody else that has compromised immunities at risk," he said.

Adrienne Pollard of Wesley Chapel was going to send her two teenage sons to overnight camps out of state.

"The Boy Scout camp is in Georgia and they canceled the first two weeks, which our kids were going the second week and the YMCA camp. We just found out the other day the governor of Connecticut just issued a proclamation, I guess that there can be no overnight camps in Connecticut over the summer."

She said she would have sent her boys to the overnight camps had they not been canceled. And, at least, they will have three weeks of marching band camp this summer at Wiregrass Ranch High. 

Now Pollard is scrambling to figure out what her sons will be doing the rest of this summer.

Tracy-Ann Gilbert-Smith will be keeping her two sons at home. She said her younger son, Ryan, 8, usually attends summer camp at his charter school.

But this year, even if the camp happens, her son won't be there. Her job at the University of South Florida will allow her to work remotely this summer.

So she plans to keep him home, since there's no vaccine against COVID-19. She also doesn't think it's reasonable to expect children to wear a face mask all day, because she said she feels like she's suffocating when she wears a mask.

"And then to monitor them, the proper hygiene in terms of washing your hands properly, covering your sneeze, not touching too many surfaces, keeping six feet away. I'm just like, you know what? Since we can we have the opportunity to keep them home, we'll just keep them home," she said.

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Susan Giles Wantuck is our midday news host, and a producer and reporter for WUSF Public Media who focuses her storytelling on arts, culture and history.