Summer Camp Cancelled; Alternatives to Be Sought
By FRED T. ROSSI
Specially Written for The Scotch Plains-Fanwood Times
SCOTCH PLAINS — The recreation commission on Monday formally cancelled the township’s summer camp programs due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak but vowed to look into alternative activities where possible.
More than 300 youths are registered for the two summer camp programs at Brookside Park, and township Recreation Director DJ Salvante said having that many congregating on a daily basis would be “too big a risk” to campers and staff. The priority, he said, is the “safety of our campers and the safety of our staff.” Even if temperature checks were instituted and health professionals were on site, getting campers to adhere to social-distancing guidelines would be a “challenge.”
He said the recreation department has been following state and federal health guidelines and is also consulting with national and state camp and recreation associations on whether summer camp programs this year are viable. One option considered and dispensed with, thanks to a survey of families with registered campers, was to hold a virtual camp. A majority of survey respondents were opposed to such an idea, Mr. Salvante said, with an overriding sentiment being that school-age children have already spent a great deal of time sitting inside their house in front of a computer screen during classroom learning.
The commission instead will spend the next two weeks brainstorming ideas for alternative programs that could operate safely over the summer months, and several members put forth some ideas at Monday’s meeting, which was held remotely. Deanna Del Bene said “we still want to offer something” in place of the traditional camp programs and suggested activities like neighborhood scavenger hunts, outside yoga classes and outside art classes. Colleen Gialanella suggested smaller-scale kickball games and cross-training classes at Brookside Park while Tom Donatelli said bike-riding at the Scotch Plains-Fanwood High School track could be another option.
“The goal is getting kids outside, outdoors” Commission Chairman Mike Walsh said. He asked that alternative programs be submitted to the recreation department and the commission by Monday, June 1 in order to give officials adequate time to get organized.