Dear Camp Ramah in Canada Family,
We hope this email finds you and your family safe, healthy, and staying warm.
This email is to update you in advance of our Town Halls this week about a number of key components of our plan as they currently stand.
After nearly one year under the grip of this pandemic, many of us feel that (besides a vaccine) the “medicine” that we need the most is camp. Our kids — and camper parents — need camp more than ever before. And at the same time, we face the mighty and complex challenge of running camp safely in this environment.
We remain cautiously optimistic about camp opening this summer. Schools have returned to in-person learning in Ontario and the Ontario Camps Association (OCA) reports positive — but cautious — indications from Public Health Ontario regarding the prospects of opening camps this summer. We are hopeful.
While the final OCA guidelines won’t be released until the end of March, the OCA is clearly directing all camps in Ontario to be moving ahead with planning for summer 2021. We have been actively planning for summer 2021 since the fall and we are committed to keeping our parents, staff, and campers informed along the way.
There remain many uncertainties concerning final government regulations and guidelines for safe operation this summer, including international travel into Canada. We continue to seek out the best and most up-to-date information, and will be creative and flexible in adapting our evolving plans to any new parameters. We greatly appreciate your patience and flexibility with this process, and your trust in us as we prepare for camp this summer under these dynamic and complex circumstances. Thank you to all of the members of this community who have supported the professional staff of camp in working towards safe opening this summer.
In order to run camp successfully this summer we are relying upon our strong partnership with you, our camper families and staff. While our final plans are not yet set, we know that there will be elements of this summer that will be out of the ordinary for our families, and may be inconvenient or challenging. We will do our best to minimize any disruption and undue burden on you. We truly thank you in advance for your understanding as we do our absolute best to ensure a safe and successful summer.
Below is a list of key elements of our plan for this summer. We will cover each of these items in greater detail during the Town Hall meetings on Tuesday, February 23, 2021 (Staff Town Halls are Monday, February 22).
Current Plans for Summer 2021
- Everything is still unfolding and final details of our plan won’t be known until April (most likely), pending release of the OCA Guidelines which are now slated to be released at the end of March.
- We are planning for an appropriately and significantly restrictive environment; we will loosen restrictions if we are able to do so. Our decisions will be science-based and in sync with other Ontario Jewish camps, the Ontario Camps Association, and the National Ramah Commission.
- We will have only one single intake into camp, i.e. we will not have a second session joining camp half-way through the summer. All campers will begin together on June 30. This will greatly reduce the likelihood of introducing infection into camp once we have created a “bubble.” We will be offering a Garinim session in August after the full summer session concludes. Second Session families have been notified of these changes.
- Our basic model of safe operation is:
- Campers isolate as much as possible before camp for 14 days
- Test campers and staff ahead of camp
- Rapid test on the day of arrival
- Strict bubbling of camp, with layers of risk mitigation applied to any holes (e.g. deliveries to camp)
- Small-group cohorting for a “Zman Aleph” of 10-14 days; masking and distancing will be practiced between separate cohorts during this time
- Another round of testing done
- If results are negative, we will begin to open up camp more, allowing greater interaction among campers. COVID infection mitigation efforts will continue throughout the summer, such as: increased ventilation in cabins, maximizing use of outdoor spaces, reduced capacity in the Chadar Ochel, frequent hand washing, close monitoring of the health of all campers, etc.
- Due to the very high risk of cross-exposure amongst campers and staff on buses, we cannot safely provide busing up to camp. Parents should plan to bring their children to camp on June 30. Busing will be provided home from Camp.
- If a camper tests positive for COVID, parents will be contacted and will be responsible for safe and expeditious retrieval of their child.
- Campers will need to be able to tolerate taking multiple COVID tests before and during camp. We are working on plans for this testing and will update families once we have more information.
- Camp MAY have to charge families a COVID surcharge to cover testing and other extraordinary costs related to running camp safely in this environment. We are working hard to avoid this extra charge, including pursuing government funding for testing, and will update as the situation unfolds.
- No visitors will be allowed in camp (including Visitors’ Day). We will, though, arrange for optional Zoom calls for campers and their families at the mid-way point of the summer.
We know that this is a lot of information to digest and that you likely have many questions. We hope that you will attend the Parent Town Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 23 (or Staff Town Halls on Feb. 22) to delve further into the details of our plan with members of our professional team. We will do our best to address as many of your questions as possible. Please email your questions in advance of the Town Hall meeting to Aviva: firstname.lastname@example.org.
As the 20th c. Hasidic teacher, the Netivot Shalom taught:
.קודם השתדלות , אחר כך מתנה
Kodem hishtadlut achar kach matanah
The beginning requires effort, and afterward comes a gift.
We thank you for your partnership as we work through the challenges of this summer — we know that all of our collective efforts to make this summer safe will be for the sake of the wonderful gift of a joyous, healing, in-person Kayitz 2021.
Jordan, Aviva, Josh and Tanya
Rabbi Jordan Bendat-Appell, Camp Director
Aviva Millstone, Associate Director
Dr. Joshua Charlat, Chair of the Board, Camp Ramah in Canada
Dr. Tanya Wyman, Chair of Camp Ramah in Canada COVID Medical Committee