COVID-19 and EKC 2021 Plans
Updated November 17, 2020
What will EKC 2021 look like?
We know that there is a lot of time between today and June 2021 and that there still remains quite a bit of uncertainty around COVID-19, but it is just the right time for us to begin our process of diligent preparation for a safe and healthy summer when campers and staff will get to enjoy EKC together in the most responsible way possible. With time to plan for the 2021 summer in today’s environment, we wanted to give you a clear idea of what steps are already being taken to ensure the EKC experience is a safe one and a typical fun sleepaway camp summer!
Our preparations and ultimately our programs will utilize the best practices published by the CDC and American Camp Association, as well as our own experiences running a series of EKC Family Retreats this summer, our Fall Camp this past October, and the JCC’s running of their Day Camp, Early Education, and All Day @ The J programs. Prior to their start, each of these programs went through intense planning sessions with the Pittsburgh Regional Health Initiative, a nationally recognized leader in quality improvement for healthcare institutions. We will be developing and sharing a “EKC Summer 2021” Playbook, which will provide EKC families with information about how we are adapting our policies and procedures to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 during Summer Camp. As information is revised and updated so too will this playbook to reflect the most current guidance provided by national and local health authorities.
We recognize, however, that no level of preparation allows us to guarantee that COVID-19 will not be present at EKC, but we are confident in our ability to run this program in a safe and meaningful way and to respond appropriately to prevent the spread of any disease, including the isolation of any camper or staff member who doesn’t feel well and/or shows symptoms of COVID-19.
Our goal will be to provide a similar experience to EKC summers of the past, with multiple session options, engaging activities both in and outside of Camp, while creating opportunities for social interaction that are hard to come by right now. We know how important your camper’s experience will be next summer after over a year of constant change in routines, physical distancing and increased time in front of computers, tablets, and other electronic devices. We will remain flexible in our planning for the summer and will be prepared to quickly pivot based on the recommendations from health officials in Pennsylvania and West Virginia.
Prior to arriving at Camp
Creating a safe and stable environment, free of COVID-19, is a top priority for us, and to do so we will rely upon our families to take whatever pre-camp precautions our team deems prudent prior to traveling to camp. This may include testing and some quarantining as well as temperature checking prior to departure. If we work together, we will limit our risks and create a true culture of compliance.
We will continue to prepare and formalize our plan as the summer approaches and will include a specific timetable for any pre-arrival requirements that are expected of campers and staff.
Dining Hall and Meals
We are fortunate to have a large dining hall with extensive seating inside. Tables will be spaced accordingly to allow at least 6 feet of space between campers who are not in the same cabin or pod. To remain in compliance with best practices for food service, we will need to make adjustments to how we execute our meals at Camp. This may include the elimination of our salad bars as a self-service experience and have our PB&J sandwiches pre-made.
As the guidance surrounding food service continues to evolve, we will adjust and update our plans for the summer so that we are in full compliance and supporting best practices.
In addition, we will encourage cabins and pods of campers to enjoy meals outside of the dining hall whenever possible. There are picnic tables throughout our upper ballfields area that make for a great eating location – when a break from the dining hall can be accommodated.
Cabins and Pods in 2021
A key measure of success throughout the pandemic for any in-person programming has been to establish stable environments where the same groups of people are around each other – while limiting or preventing the introduction of outsiders to that pod. The camps that ran successful and safe programs in 2020 did this, and our programs at the JCC in Pittsburgh have also subscribed to this methodology of “cohort distancing.”
We know that at Camp, so much of our community is built around getting to know the other campers and staff that are here. However, to create that stable environment, we will be establishing pods of campers and staff. The sizes of our pods are still yet to be determined and could be done on a cabin basis, grade basis, or even by unit. How we build our pods will be based on the guidance and recommendations from our medical experts. Exact pod sizes will be determined closer to the summer and shared with our families.
This likely means that some of our programs will need to be adjusted to provide the same great experience, while keeping our community safely in their pods. As such, it is possible that we will not be able to allow for the mixing of pods during the summer while at Camp.
Like most summer camps, we are fortunate that almost all activities take place outdoors. For those activities that often take place indoors, such as dance, arts and crafts, and ceramics (for example), we will introduce outdoor alternatives. Our Arts and Crafts building already includes a large outdoor deck that campers can spend time on, allowing us to have multiple pods of campers at the same program area, while achieving the physical distance between them.
Sanitizing and Cleaning
Everyday hygiene and healthy practices are already such an important part of a communal living situation at EKC. Regular cleaning and sanitizing of common high-touch spots, such as door handles, sports equipment, and rest rooms, will be carried out regularly by our cleaning staff in compliance with the guidance from West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and with best practices in mind. In addition, every cabin of campers will carry with them a “sanitation bag” that includes cleaning supplies for before and after their visit to each program area.
Over the past many months we have made improvements to our facility that include turning our water fountains into “bottle fillers” instead of the traditional method of drinking directly from the fountain. We have also installed hand sanitizer stations at every program area and in every unit of Camp.
Between sessions, all of these same areas will undergo a thorough cleaning and disinfecting process.
Refunds and Payments
This pandemic has caused financial stress on so many of us. EKC and the JCC of Greater Pittsburgh are no exception. We remain committed to providing our families with the flexibility needed in making their Camp payments for next summer, and we will not begin collecting tuition until January 2021 at the earliest.
Although we expect to open for an incredible summer, we will provide our families with the option for a full refund if (i) our program is modified in a significant way, (ii) you are uncomfortable sending your camper(s), or (iii) if we cannot open at all. While the fundraising dollars we have received to this point have helped bridge some of the gaps we have remaining from last summer, we would certainly appreciate any additional support our in our continued recovery efforts. (Contribute to EKC’s Recovery Efforts)
Special Events, Campfires
The hallmark of our EKC program, are the many opportunities and experiences throughout our summer where we gather for campfires, programs, Color War, and of course, Shabbat. We
know how important these experiences are to our camp community, and we are developing ways that we can still enjoy our EKC favorites, while being responsible and safe at the same time.
All camp gatherings where we sing and dance to ‘Love Story’ or ‘Country Roads’ may not happen in the same way it did in previous summers – and we will make sure that whatever we are able to replace those experiences with will be equally as memorable and special.
The EKC staff is always the heart of our camp community, and they missed camp in 2020 as much as anyone else. We’re building an incredible team to help deliver our 2021 summer and getting their commitment to do so in a safe and responsible way. This may include strict adherence to pods, mask wearing while in close proximity to each other, or wearing the appropriate PPE while delivering programs during the day. Any pre-camp arrival requirements that we ask of our campers will also be asked and required of all staff.
Transportation to/from Camp
We have not yet made a determination about whether we will be able to offer transportation to/from Camp in 2021. Riding in buses is inherently a difficult task to accomplish, while making sure we are in full compliance with the guidance and best practices available. We know that many of our families rely on EKC to provide transportation as part of the overall camp experience. As our approach to moving campers about comes into focus, we will communicate with our families so that there is ample time to prepare for alternative transportation to Camp, if necessary.
As our preparations for the summer continue to evolve around our top priority of the health and safety of everyone in Camp, we will update this page. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Aaron Cantor, EKC Director, with any questions about Camp or the precautions we’re taking in 2021. Aaron can be reached at (412)339-5412 or at [email protected]