FRYEBURG, Maine — “We’re going to go through the process and hopefully pull it off,” Fryeburg Recreation Director Rick Buzzell said last Wednesday, after deciding to try offering a modified version of day camp for children this summer amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Camp would run Mondays-Fridays, June 22-July 31. “I hope we can move forward,” he said by phone last week. “There seems to be interest.”
He added: “I don’t have the (Molly Ockett School) or a food program, and looking at the guidelines I got from the state of Maine last Thursday, and then attending a Zoom conference with the Maine Parks and Recreation Association on Friday, I was like, ‘I can’t do this.’
“Then I mulled it over the weekend and came up with some options. It’s going to be different,” he said.
Fryeburg traditionally has offered a six-week program, weekdays from 7:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. “We won’t be able to help with offering full-day care for families,” Buzzell said. “But this will be an opportunity for kids to get out and see their friends.”
Buzzell made the announcement last Tuesday on the department’s website (fryeburgrec.com) and Facebook page. “In an effort to offer something this summer and still follow guidelines, here is what I’m proposing,” he wrote. “We would like to offer a six-week program, five hours a day, 8 a.m-1 p.m. each day starting June 22. In staying within the State of Maine restrictions, we would be able to take 50 kids into this program.
“Those 50 kids would be broken up into five groups of 10 with two counselors assigned to each group,” he said. “Those five groups would stay the same for all six weeks, and there would be no interactions between groups.
“If the sign-up numbers dictate, we would entertain taking different age groups on alternating days,” Buzzell continued. “Fryeburg residents will take priority and out-of-town MSAD 72 children will only be allowed if room permits. No one outside of our school district will be allowed.”
Traditional field trips will not happen this summer. “There will be no field trips, but we will take one group at a time to the river each day to swim and cool off,” Buzzell said.
“There will be health checks and temperature screenings each day at drop-off. Drop-off and pickup will be a drive-through style system where you will not be leaving your cars.
He added: “There will be strict protocols and procedures to ensure a safe environment as much as possible.”
Buzzell has been trying for two months to come up with a plan that would make summer rec a possibility.
On May 8, he shared an update with the community. “If we pull this off, expect it to be very different from what has been done in the past,” he said. “For example: potentially no food offered, capping attendance at 50 kids in the camp, keeping kids in smaller groups each day so that there is less interaction with the group as a whole, no field trips as most parks will remain closed and we can’t fit kids onto a crowded bus and maintain social distancing. These are just the tip of the iceberg of complications we are facing. With all that being said, I’m very motivated to make something happen but again there is a long way to go. I anticipate a June 1st deadline to make a final decision on if we can pull this off or not.”
Buzzell believes he and the counselors will “be able to offer a sense of normalcy” for children ages 5-12. He thinks he has enough staff for the summer. They’re going to be our cleaning crew, too,” he said. “Once one group is done in an area, before the next one enters, everything needs to be cleaned and scrubbed down. It’s going to be a constant battle to keep on top of this.”
Should there be rain on a camp day, Buzzell said he can “social distance” everyone in the gym and will offer movies. “We’re trying to offer people something this summer,” he said. “This not your typical summer, anywhere.”
Buzzell is asking people to complete a quick eight-question survey by SurveyMonkey on the department’s website. Six of them are yes or no questions, while two require you to enter a couple of numbers. The questions include:
• Your child will have the same 10 kids and two counselors all six weeks and won’t interact with the other 40 kids at camp. Will you still choose to send your kids?
• If your child presents with symptoms of the COVID-19 virus during the six weeks you will be asked to have them tested as soon as possible. Do you agree with this?
• If someone at camp that is in your child’s group of 10 tests positive for the COVID-19 virus, you will be asked to quarantine for 14 days. Do you agree with this?
• In an effort to take more kids than the 50 children the State of Maine is allowing at a time, we might stagger different age groups every other day. Would you still send your kids?
For more information or to get registration forms, call Buzzell at (207) 935-3933.