I am sure we all feel that we have been living in an alternate universe of late. Who could have possibly imagined COVID-19 and its impact on our lives and businesses? We are all adjusting to a new reality of social distancing, handwashing and mask-wearing. Life has changed, and it is beholden on us to make adjustments so we might continue moving forward.
Keystone will be open this summer, but our schedule and our sessions will be modified. This is a decision that took hours of thought, work and understanding. We are all profoundly aware of all that has been lost by our children these past 3 months. We want to provide a semblance of “normal” life when there is no normal. We want our girls to be able to be outside, to see friends, to enjoy camp activities, and to find joy. We feel driven to meet that need more than ever, and we will be leaning on many sources for guidance and counsel. COVID is not going away. We want to live as best we are able in the midst of COVID.
My husband has begun calling the conference room in the camp office, “The War Room.” Honestly, for us, it does feel that way. Heidi, Anna, Mary-Elizabeth (MED), Martha and I have been working along with Jessica Page, our Riding Director, and Eleanor Matthews, our Nursing Director. Hours and days have been invested in walking through every guideline and examining how our operations would be impacted. Guidance has been provided by the state of North Carolina, the American Camp Association and the CDC. We have been in frequent contact with our county health department and our camp physician, and they will continue to provide support to us every step of the way.
This morning was our annual camp health training conducted by our health department. Needless to say, the focus of today’s meeting was COVID-19 and camps. I will be very honest and tell you that we came away from the meeting feeling very vulnerable. The summer has risk of COVID occurring. We will do our best to mitigate the virus, but we cannot promise perfection. As we mentioned on Friday, we are all in this together. Operating camp this summer is a partnership of parents, staff, campers and our larger community. We must all be willing to assume some risk and new responsibilities. To quote the Transylvania County Public Health Director, “With thoughtfulness to approach and good safety practices, the risk can be managed. COVID is very serious, but life can’t simply stop. There has to be a balance. Camps mitigate communicable disease risk every single year.” We will continue to mitigate.
Given what we know about COVID and the professional advice we have received, we will offer 4 two week sessions beginning on June 14th. The 13 day length helps with mitigating exposure and with maintaining optimum health within our camp community. As we shared on Friday, the first session will run with only 70 campers from North Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina. This is a restriction for our Governor’s order for Phase 2 of reopening. Phase 2 is expected to begin this Friday, May 22nd.
We are profoundly aware of the disappointment our three- and four-week girls will feel with the session change. We have mourned the loss ourselves. We are rethinking how we provide a great program while social distancing. It will be different, but we have every confidence that we will have a blast together! Does anyone doubt MED and Martha’s abilities to be creative and come up with some amazing activities? We are so very lucky to have them working on the program! Check out their What Will Keystone Look Like This Summer webpage here.
We know the session changes may cause you to rethink attendance. We will continue to be flexible with options for you. We have COVID Frequently Asked Questions that will address most all of your concerns, from pre-camp to opening day and everything in between. Anna has developed a Financial Flow Chart to answer your questions about tuition payments. Additionally, we are providing an Attendance Intention Form that will allow you to consider different sessions, enrollment for next season, and refund opportunities if you are not able to attend Keystone this summer. We want you to be comfortable with your decision to send your daughter to camp.
We are trying to allow as many of our campers who want to attend camp to do so this year being mindful of increased distancing and smaller group sizes. Many of our three weekers are prohibited from attending the first session because of the limitation on states. We have had indications that the state restrictions will be lifted in Phase 3. If all of the data continues to trend downward, Phase 3 could open at the end of June. Some of our families from permitted states attending later sessions have offered to attend in the first session to open spots later in the summer for our June girls. Again, we are all in this together, and what a generous, thoughtful offer. We can make this work by supporting each other.
Please review our four attachments thoroughly:
The most essential piece of information we need from you as soon as possible will be the completed Enrollment Intention Form. We are asking that this be completed by the end of business on Friday. This information will allow us to put shape to our numbers in each session and in each cabin.
We share the emotional rollercoaster you are riding at the moment. What we are offering is a big change from our recent history (the last 36 years of my leadership), and it is a significant challenge in our very long 104 years of camping. COVID has tested our resilience, and on some days, we have been tested to our absolute limits. We are choosing to rise to the challenge. Is there a better lesson we can share with our girls? We love our girls, and we cherish the opportunity to work with them and to watch them grow. We want to do the very best we can for our girls during this time of COVID. Life is not without risk, but as our health director reminds us, we can mitigate that risk. We are not perfect. Camp will not be perfect, but if you are willing to accept our best efforts, we welcome you and your girls with elbow bumps.
With gratitude for your understanding and your support through this journey,
Page, Heidi, Anna, Mary-Elizabeth and Martha