The BCRD plans to group kids in small “pods” and limit large-scale gatherings at camps this summer.

The Blaine County Recreation District will move forward with its summer camps by incorporating social distancing protocols and other precautions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.  

The decision was made Monday by the Recreation District board of directors after reviewing a complicated set of procedures put together by staff, based on orders from the Idaho Governor’s Office and consultations with other camp providers in the Wood River Valley.

Each camp—with its specific style and focus—faces its own coronavirus challenges. But, the BCRD’s initial plan could serve as a starting point for others looking to relaunch youth activities in Blaine County.

“Our summer camps are absolutely essential, and you’ve done a great job of making them as safe as possible,” board President Mike Burchmore told staff during Monday’s meeting.

The safety protocols, which are still evolving, will include keeping small “pods” of a limited number of kids in separate homerooms to limit outside contact. Camp performances will not take place.

Counseling staff and campers will be directed to exercise stringent hand-sanitizing practices and adhere to protocols for screening potential coronavirus cases. All camp participants would likely have to wear facemasks while indoors, in bathrooms and wherever they are within 6 feet of one another outside.

The aquatic center, where kids would usually spend two hours per day, won’t be open. The BCRD is looking to schedule alternative events, Recreation Manager Jenna Vagias said, like field trips to city parts and the Big Wood River.

“This is still completely up in the air,” Vagias said. “We are rebuilding from scratch.”

 About 95 kids attend BCRD summer camps each summer, but accommodating that many will likely be a challenge under the planned safety restrictions, BCRD Executive Director Jim Keating said.

Cash-only payers, including some families that would be seeking scholarships, usually register in person. They would not necessarily have ready access to online registration, Vagias said.

To make the first-come, first-served application process equitable, the board discussed ways of registering families by telephone or at outside desks if they do not have credit cards. A high percentage of summer camp attendees are Hispanic, according to BCRD Youth Coordinator Kellee Blondell. He said additional bilingual staff can be being hired to help with registration.

“This will be a balancing act,” Vagias said.

Vagias said a strict disinfecting regimen would have to be collaborated with Blaine County School District custodial staff to clean surfaces in buildings, as well as toys and art supplies. She said it could include the “wiping of Frisbees” after each use.

“Pretty much every time you touch something, you will have to use hand sanitizer,” Vagias said.

Coronavirus screenings of campers each day will be conducted either by parents or by staff using “no touch” thermometers, which Vagias said are currently unavailable. She said regular hand sanitizers are also in short supply but the Recreation District could turn instead to a CDC-approved recipe for sanitizer that uses bleach.

The BCRD will have parents sign agreements requiring them to adhere to the protocols and accept that attending camp could lead to coronavirus transmissions.

Camp counsellors, some ages 14 to 15, who typically stagger their hours Monday through Friday, will instead work eight hours straight to stay with one group of kids only. Fridays will be spent cleaning and prepping the camps for Monday.

The BCRD’s final plan will be presented to the Blaine County School District on May 12, with summer camp registration launching on May 13. For more information go to bcrd.org.

Email the writer: tevans@mtexpress.com

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