BUFFALO, N.Y. — Summer camp is in full swing for many kids across New York. With fewer restrictions this year compared to last, camps are adjusting to what that looks like.
Two local camps say they still have social distancing guidelines and increased cleaning like last year, but they’re still doing what they can to ensure kids get to have fun.
YMCA Vice President of Youth Development and Program Quality Penny Snell says kids can enjoy time outside without a mask on.
"The mandate right now is masks inside are strongly recommended but not required," said Snell. "So we are requiring unvaccinated staff to wear masks inside. Parents can make the decision for their children and we honor those decisions."
The YMCA works with 1,000 kids per day between their 12 locations during their summer camp programs. While it's a big task, counselor Ms. Olivia says preparing for this summer was a little easier.
“Luckily the Y has been operating during the pandemic since last March so we have been comfortable and familiar following all of the safety protocols," said Ms. Olivia. "And now that things have been a little less restrictive, kids have been doing what they should be doing in the summer.”
Snell says this summer, they faced other challenges.
“I think preparing for this year probably our biggest challenge was finding staff," Snell said. "Coming off of the past year, parents are ready to have their kids outside enjoying fun and programmatically we are ready to do that. So far as social distancing, sanitizing, pinning those things into our day, we have that down pat.”
At the Elmwood Franklin School, camp directors Wilfred Murrett and Maggie Dirrigl prepare for what their camps will look like this summer.
“About 389 individual participants, but they come throughout each week, so it depends on what week they are coming,” said Murrett.
They operated last summer during the pandemic. And this year, they have their protocol down.
“The kids will get poly spots on the floor instead of a desk so they can have their socially distanced area but it will be a specific area in the room,” Murrett said.
For now, both camps are focused on making sure kids get to be kids and enjoy summer.
“The kids are used to those rules now after being in programs and schools so that was an easy lift for us,” said Snell.
At the YMCA, they say families are eager to get kids back into camp. Right now, they have a waiting list, but that's partially due to staffing, so they're taking applications.
Just last week, state officials said summer school mask mandates will now be in line with summer camps, where face masks are encouraged, but not required. The state plans to release updated guidance for the school year this fall.