Willoway Day Camp, which has welcomed Jewish children around Metro Detroit for more than 50 summers, will open its 2020 season on June 22 with new precautions to keep both kids and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Photo courtesy of Willoway Day Camp)

Staff institutes new COVID-19 safety measures for campers in 2020.

Willoway Day Camp, which has welcomed Jewish children around Metro Detroit for more than 50 summers, will open its 2020 season on June 22 with new precautions to keep both kids and staff safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This summer, Willoway will have a limited enrollment of approximately 150 children, who will be placed in groups of no more than 10 with two counselors per group. The week prior to the camp’s opening, the staff of 60 will be trained on new safety measures.

“We will have a lot of concentration on how we will deal with children in distancing and staying 6 feet apart from other groups,” said Lorraine Fisher, co-owner of Willoway Day Camp, on this year’s staff training. Lorraine and her husband, Arnie Fisher, have owned and operated the camp for 53 years.

Each group, called a “family” group, will have their own set of activities. Masks will not be required within family groups but, when social distancing is not possible, children will be asked to wear them. Counselors will encourage children to practice handwashing and indoor spaces will be marked with 6-foot distancing guides.

To keep the grounds clean, the Milford-based camp has purchased commercial spray to sanitize buses and equipment continuously throughout the day. After a family group has finished an activity, a cleaning crew will come in and sanitize that space. There will also be hand sanitizer available throughout the grounds.

One of the biggest changes at Willoway this summer is the camp’s transportation system. “We will not be having door-to-door transportation at this time,” Fisher said.

Instead, Willoway will offer express shuttle pickup via bus from nine locations around the Metro Detroit area. Parents will be responsible for both dropping off and picking up their children from these locations. Children will be seated spaced apart, and wellness checks, including temperature screenings, will be conducted each morning.

Since COVID-19 first emerged, Willoway has been planning and researching how to safely conduct its summer sessions while adhering to state guidelines. They’ve also virtually met with other camps around the country to determine best practices and safety measures.

“We have not stopped,” Fisher said. “We feel kids need camp, and they need it desperately. We can only do it if we feel that it’s safe and we have decided that we can do this safely.”

Jason Brown of Beverly Hills, 49, will be sending his two daughters, Libby and Eliza, 9 and 13, to Willoway this summer. “We know that Willoway has the health and safety of our kids as their top priorities,” he said. “If they say it’s OK to send them to camp, then we feel it will be a safe environment for them to have a great summer.”

Brown says it’s important for parents to make sure children don’t have fevers and have masks on hand. “Of course, we have some reluctance, given the severity of the virus and what’s still unknown,” he continues, but he hopes for his daughters to be able to have a “somewhat normal summer.”

“Healthy camp starts at home,” Fisher said. “Whatever happens outside of camp is as important as what happens in it. We need to trust parents to trust us to take care of their children.”

She recommends parents take their children’s temperature even before they reach their shuttle location. Meanwhile, any children who exhibit signs of being ill at camp, whether a stomachache or cold-like symptoms, will be sent home.

Ultimately, decisions rest with parents, Fisher said. “Every parent has to do what’s right for them.”

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