Southwest Florida is on the path to a slow reopen. That means parents going back to work will need child care, and for school-aged kids, that would normally mean summer camp.
With new guidelines to keep everyone safe, it now means there are fewer openings.
“I had a single mom with two younger sisters. And so, in order for my mom to be able to continue to work in the summer, the Y was the only place we could really go,” said Joey Belanger, regional executive director for the Fort Myers YMCA.
Belanger knows the impact summer camp can have on local families, which is why this year, he won’t let the coronavirus pandemic stop the Y from helping families in need.
“…We are providing child care for children of first responders and essential workers that are still working. And so it’s been a test into what summer could look like for us because we’ve had to change our usual practices.”
Both Megan Beauvais, president and CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Collier County, and Belanger said their clubs will follow CDC guidelines to keep campers safe.
“It’s a really fine balance between wanting to be there for the community and for families in need, but also wanting to make sure that you’re not hindering efforts to get the curved flattened,” Beauvais said.
That means checking children’s temperatures before they’re allowed inside the building, keeping campers in groups of 10 or less, wearing masks, and enforcing handwashing and cleaning with every transition.
But those protective measures come with a high cost.
“… With ratios of no more than 10 in a group and limited areas that we can have proper social distancing in, that looks to be hundreds less than what we traditionally serve,” Beauvais said.
Susan Block, with the Early Learning Coalition of Southwest Florida, said that could impact reopening efforts.
“Without our childcare providers, without our early learning folks, without those folks that are going to provide summer camp in some way, shape, or form this summer – people who need to work can’t work,” Block said.
Camp leaders are looking for ways to help more families so that parents can go back to work knowing their children are safe and cared for.
“… our goal then would be to hire more staff, search out other partners that we may be able to work within the community to provide additional facility space, convert current facility space,” Belanger said.
“Whether it’s five or six days of service, or families get three days a week and we’re able to serve double the families three days a week each, we’re really trying to look at what is the overwhelming need and how do we help the most people as possible,” Beauvais said.
Block says there are other community partners who can help as well. If you’re having trouble finding child care, call the United Way at 211.