Important Camp Update and Parent Survey
Shalom Ramah Families,
All of us in the Ramah New England family hope that you and your families are doing well under these very trying circumstances. It is very emotional for all of us to consider whether or not camp can or cannot open this summer. The health and safety of our camp community is always our top priority and will guide our decision-making. Please read the entire letter and fill out our survey.
We need you to fill out this quick survey that will help us plan. This survey is not binding. It will help us get a sense of what our enrollment would be and help us in staffing and program planning.
PLEASE CLICK HERE AND FILL OUT THIS VERY SHORT SURVEY
As promised, we are updating you on the status of camp for both our Palmer overnight and DC day camps. We continue to do the planning and work to prepare our camps to open on schedule while understanding that we may not be able to open on time or even at all. In this letter I would like to update everyone on how the decision will be made, what changes there may be to what camp looks like at both camps, and what it might look like if camp can run but on a different calendar. We recognize this is a long and detailed letter; we want to be transparent and thorough as we hope to run a safe and fun Ramah experience this summer.
How do we determine if our camps can open?
In order for camp to open we need to be licensed by our state. Currently, in Massachusetts the Governor has extended stay at home and social distancing measures and Maryland’s stay-a-home order continues. The situation is fluid and these dates can change.
The American Camp Association (ACA) accredits the vast majority of day and overnight camps in America, including the Ramah camps. The ACA has engaged a public health firm to work with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to establish guidelines for how/if camps can operate this summer. Once these guidelines are published, local and state health officials will apply them to individual camps. Time frames are hard to predict, but we have been told that we should know the guidelines by mid-May.
Once we receive guidelines, we will work with our National Ramah and local medical committees to create protocols that work for our camps. The Ramah New England medical committee and board of directors would have to feel confident that we could meet the health and safety concerns COVID-19 brings and that we are equipped to be able to run our camps under the state health guidelines. These committees have already been meeting to discuss measures and policies.
Potential Pre-Camp and Opening Day Procedures
For both camps, we will devise an opening day protocol including significant screening prior to campers arriving at camp. We are considering that all overnight campers will bus to camp from regional pickup centers.
Potential Programmatic and Staff Changes/Modifications
At both of our camps, we expect that we will modify our programs to limit contact with people outside of camp. We need to wait to see final CDC/Department of Health guidelines. When we know camp is opening and what the guidelines are, we will notify camp families about our program adjustments.
For our overnight camp: we anticipate that we will not do out-of-camp trips (like Six Flags) or allow visitors. We also anticipate that we will not have or will have many fewer staff from Israel or any other countries. We are confident that we will have an appropriate number of staff to run a safe, fun and meaningful program, but certain programs may be impossible to run. For example, we will likely not have enough certified swim instructors to be able to offer instructional swim.
For our day camp: We may not have shlichim (Israeli staff) available to staff our Sha’ar Hebrew immersion program. Should this occur, we will send a separate letter to our Sha’ar Day Camp families informing them of any program modifications. We also anticipate we would not have field trips or family programs.
Potential Session Date Changes/Modifications
It is possible that government guidelines will require us to start our camps late. Depending on what that date would be, we would consider shortening sessions or adjusting them. Our goal would be to cause as little disruption as possible to our families’ schedules while also trying to be fair in offering camp to all who want to attend.
For our overnight camp: at this time, we are not making any session switches until we know if and when camp can open and what the dates would be.
For our day camp: if the day camp is delayed, we would open as soon as allowed at the beginning of the week. We would prorate tuition for any week cancelled.
We plan on providing another update by May 18th (after our May 17th board meeting). We hope at that time that we will have a clearer picture of what our options will be. We believe by June 2nd we need to have a final decision on whether our camps can open on time. Shortly thereafter, we will need to have a final decision on whether we will be able to open at all this season. These time frames may change based on available information.
The health and safety of our campers and our camp communities will guide our steps. As we mentioned in our previous letter, if our camps cannot open this season, we will be facing an existential financial crisis. Our COVID-19 crisis team and board of directors have been working hard to plan how camp can move forward. We will offer full refunds while also asking our families to donate some or all of their tuition to camp. As you can imagine, we spend money all year planning camp, running programs, and maintaining and preparing our property. We have been tightening our spending in these uncertain times and if camp cannot open we will have significant layoffs and pay cuts of year-round staff members. We will need your support in order to continue to operate through summer 2021. If we cannot open this year, we will present options for donating to camp, registering for summer 2021 and obtaining refunds.
Even though these are unprecedented and difficult times, we hope you find comfort in our Ramah family. All of us love our campers and our Ramah community. We draw comfort from the warmth and support we feel in our virtual programs and we dare to hope we will be together soon.
AND DON’T FORGET, PLEASE CLICK HERE AND FILL OUT THIS VERY SHORT SURVEY
Rabbi Ed Gelb
CEO, Camp Ramah New England