The Porter County
Park Board voted 4 - 1 last night to hold its annual summer camp, Camp
Funset, with additional precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The Park Board met
to discuss the issue yesterday at the new Horton Children’s Center at Sunset
Hill, which provided space for attendees and board members to social
distance. All who attended wore masks, and the doors to the building were
left open for ventilation.
Craig Kenworthy and member Drew Armstrong were concerned about camper and
staff safety, but ultimately voted to hold camp after a discussion of the
Department’s COVID-19 Response Plan for Camp Funset. Member Erin Labovitz
voted no after voicing concerns about camp starting too soon.
decision comes as the Park Department has canceled all of its larger summer
events, including the Prairie Magic Music Festival scheduled for Aug. 8 and
movie nights at Sunset Hill Farm County Park. In a release about the
decision to cancel these events, Parks Superintendent Walter Lenckos said
the Department wants to focus on what programs it can offer safely.
Lenckos said the
plan to hold camp is still subject to change, and that if a camper or number
of campers tested positive after camp starts, “We would have to potentially
pull the plug that day, and there’d be no camp the next day or until we
figure out what’s going on.”
Lenckos said the
Department doesn’t take the COVID-19 lightly and is working tirelessly to
make sure Camp Funset is as safe as possible this year, but there are always
unknowns. “My entire career I’ve been asked this question by parents: Can
you guarantee my kid is going to be safe? My answer is always ‘No,’” Lenckos
told the Board.
“Are we doing
everything we can? Yes. Do I have faith in my staff? 100 percent. Does that
mean it’s always going to go perfect? We never know,” he added. What Lenckos
can guarantee, he said, is that the Parks staff is working tirelessly to
plan and execute a safe camp experience using all available information from
the CDC and the American Camp Association (ACA) in line with state and local
Lenckos said he
expects several experienced camp counselors to return, including four
permanent part-time Parks staff members, which should streamline the process
of training them on new COVID-19 procedures. Week one of camp, which was
scheduled to start June 8, has been canceled, and staff training, including
a Health Department program, will take place that week instead.
Camp activities are
now slated to start the week of June 14. Parents of children who were
scheduled to attend week 1 will be refunded. Camp will run through July 31,
and the first week of August may be added later as a make-up.
Lenckos said staff
are working on a plan to stagger pick-up and drop-off times, and campers
will be screened for COVID-19 symptoms and have their temperatures taken
before being admitted to camp each day. Campers who are symptomatic will not
be allowed to return to camp until they have been cleared of infection and
fever free for 24 hours.
“We will ask
parents not to get out of theirs cars during drop-off,” Lenckos said.
“Either the window comes down or the child steps out, a senior staff member
takes their temperature and confirms that the questionnaire is still valid,
then the kid can be released to their small group.”
Campers are being
parsed into smaller groups and large group activities, including all
overnights and field trips, have been canceled and replaced with safer
options. Refunds will be issued for overnights and field trips, according to
the most recent draft of Department’s Camp Funset COVID-19 Response Plan.
According to the
Plan, Campers won’t be required to wear masks, but staff will wear masks at
all times. Groups will be assigned their own activity spaces and sets of
equipment. Any equipment shared between groups will be cleaned and sanitized
The Response Plan
specifies that surfaces and equipment will be cleaned several times a day
and between uses first with a regular detergent and then sanitized with an
EPA-approved disinfectant. ”We’re building a 15-minute window into every
hour of activities for sanitation, hygiene, and cleaning,” Lenckos said.
2020 marks the 10th
year the Porter County Parks Department has held Camp Funset, a day camp
that offers various STEM, arts, outdoors, and leadership activities for kids
in grades K-9. This year is also the first year campers will be able to
utilize the new Horton Children’s Center and was slated to be the first year
of a leader-in-training program for teens in grades 10-12.
Director Nichole Murray said her driving force in ensuring that camp
continues is the fact that parents, many of whom will be going back, or have
already gone back, to work as part of Gov. Holcomb’s Back on Track Indiana
plan rely on Camp Funset for childcare.
canceled one week, and we have a lot of parents just really anxious about
the daycare,” Murray said. “We’ve had parents call us saying ‘I’m counting
Murray said staff
have been researching best practices and adapting programs since pandemic
started and are ready to rock and roll. With the Department’s
industry-specific COVID-19 safety guidelines from the ACA and YMCA, the
Parks department may even have better guidelines than daycares, Murray