Chesterton Tribune



County Park Board votes to hold Camp Funset in spite of C19 fears

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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.

Board President 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.

The Board’s 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 reopening procedures.

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 between uses.

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.

Parks Program 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.

“We’ve already 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 on you.’”

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 added.


Posted 5/29/2020





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