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Day camps to open this summer with restrictions

Summer camps and programs will be allowed to open in June with modifications, San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Friday.

With five other Bay Area counties and Berkeley, the San Francisco Department of Public Health issued a new order Friday that allows summer camps and programs to open on June 15, with restrictions. Childcare programs for all children can begin on June 1.

“We have worked hard to create a safe environment for kids to be kids this summer,” Breed said in a statement. “Children need to be able get outside and have fun while their parents know they are safe. While summer camps and programs will look different this year than they have in the past, it will provide relief for some parents and give their children the opportunity to play and spend time with other kids their age.”

Groups must be limited to 12 children over the age of 6 per room or space. The sessions must last at least three weeks and the children must remain in the same group for that time, though preferably throughout the summer. While in their “pods,” they can do activities like play basketball, Rec and Park Director Phil Ginsberg said.

Organizations setting up programs must complete on an online form with information and certifications, have parents or guardians sign that they acknowledge the health risks, and implement a health and safety plan to limit spreading coronavirus.

Nature-focused Tree Frog Treks, which operates camps almost entirely outdoors, is well-positioned to keep distance between kids for its summer programming. Kids will be split into groups of 10 to 12 for three weeks per the new guidelines, said founder and zoologist Chris Giorni. The goal is to maintain a “bubble within the bubble” with proper distancing and masks.

“We’re very excited to get kids back to the calming effects of nature,” Giorni said. “Being outside is shown to be the very best environment.”

Chris Babcock has been preparing her art studio on California Street for class sizes of 12, down from the usual 24 to 48 kids at a time. She bought more little tables to space out art students and is having plastic barriers set up.

The first thing kids will do is make wings with a six-foot span of their own design as a creative way for them to stay mindful to keep a distance while wearing masks. Temperatures will be taken as they arrive and students will be reminded to wash their hands regularly and not touch their faces, among other precautions.

“I’m just trying to think outside the box,” Babcock said. “I’m concerned they’ll just run up to us and hug us. It’s natural to want to do that.”

Programs such as Camp Galileo and the Cartoon Art Museum are offering virtual camps after deciding that was the best way to have parents feel safe. The Summer Camptoons class capacity will be cut by about 30 percent to 10 children per class to ensure they get individualized attention over Google Meet — a change that makes the nonprofit’s budget even tighter.

“I almost feel bad that we can’t give parents that relief while giving kids that freedom to be out of their normal space,” Taylor Kester said. “It also changes a lot how the kids experience socializing. Kids who are boisterous in person get a little quieter online and vice versa.”

Since announcing the switch earlier this month, registrations have trickled in from Chicago and Atlanta, said Cartoon Art Museum program coordinator Nina Taylor Kester. The camp usually comes with lunch breaks at Ghirardelli Square and field trips, which the museum is working to bring virtual.

Rec and Park will host three summer camp sessions through Aug. 14 in addition to summer programs by the Department of Children, Youth and Their Families. Emergency childcare offered to frontline workers will end June 5, replaced by the summer activities.

The department’s programs usually serve 2,000 kids per week. Officials now are working to establish the capacity for up to 700 kids per session, Rec and Park spokesperson Tamara Aparton said.

Registration for the Rec and Park lottery opens May 26. More information on city summer camps can be found at the DCYF website.

imojadad@sfexaminer.com

Ida Mojadad

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Ida Mojadad
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