Cabin Fever

by Eva Shimkus, Features Editor
Graphic by Cat Lu

Junior Mitchell Waksler planned to spend the summer working at T-Ville Trails, one of 15 seven-week day camps run by Newton Parks and Recreation. Waksler held onto hope that despite coronavirus he would spend his second straight summer making art and playing sports with his campers. 

That is, until he received an email from Newton Parks and Recreation detailing the camp’s cancellation. 

On June 1, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) released its requirements for reopening child and youth programs. Although overnight camps are not permitted to open, the new guidelines allow day programs to run with restricted activities.

For a camp to run under the new guidelines, it must be based primarily outdoors, take no field trips, keep its groups to under 12 individuals and have at least two properly trained health care supervisors for responding to COVID-19 concerns on site. 

Camps must also comply with State Sanitary Code Chapter IV, which mandates daily cleanings, plans for identifying sick campers and an increase in staff members to ensure the code is upheld. 

Because of these guidelines, Newton Parks and Recreation canceled their camps.  “We know this is bad news for so many families who rely on our programs to provide safe and stimulating activities for your children, which is especially needed at this time,” Channon Ames, who works for Newton Parks and Rec said. “We appreciate your understanding and patience as we navigate through these difficult times,” they wrote in an email to parents.

Even before the official cancellation, counselors said they were skeptical that camps were going to be open. 

In an interview conducted before Newton Parks and Recreation’s decision was released, junior Noga Bros, who planned on working her third year at Centre Acres, said she was worried that her camp would be closed or drastically modified to comply with safety regulations. 

Junior Nora Flint, who was also supposed to be a counselor at Centre Acres, said it will be a slow summer for everyone.

“It’s going to be hard for the parents, going from homeschooling [their kids] to entertaining them over the summer,” she said. “I bet parents are going to try to seek out babysitters.”

Waksler said he worries for working parents, but he said he believes Newton will find ways to help.

“Hopefully [Newton Parks and Recreation] will find a way for kids to stay busy in a safe way,” he said.

In the message informing staff members of the cancellation, Newton Parks and Recreation provided links for babysitting resources and job opportunities. Some of these require applicants to be over 18 years of age, yet counselors could be as young as 15, leaving many teens without work over the summer.

Although day camps had the option to remain open, overnight camps were forced to close. For senior Adina Smith, who was going to be a counselor at Camp Yavneh, an overnight summer camp in Northwood, New Hampshire, this news was disappointing.

“Given all the CDC regulations and social distancing measures, I understood that it wouldn’t be possible to have hundreds of people congregating in a place for eight weeks in the summer coming from all different areas of the country and around the world,” she said. “It was pretty sad to hear because I was excited to go back to camp, and see people who I normally don’t get to see and to be able to spend time with kids.”

Freshman Caroline Blum, who was going to be a camper at Camp Kingswood in Bridgeton, Maine, said that she is going to miss seeing her friends, whom she doesn’t often see during the year.

“Some of the people live really far away. I have a friend who lives in Argentina, so I never get to see her other than those two weeks,” she said.

Though closing down camps may contribute to a decline in COVID-19 cases, the summer looks uncertain for parents, would-be campers and counselors. 

Flint said she’s been looking into other possibilities for the summer.

“There have been links sent around of babysitting websites or Facebook groups, but I don’t know how many jobs are going to be possible with COVID-19,” she said.

Waksler said he is in a similar boat and is searching for job opportunities this summer.

“I’ve got to figure out what I can do this summer to stay busy. It was a really fun job to have,” he said. “It’s great to have a good time in the summer and get paid for it.”