The Village of Rockville Centre Recreation Department’s Summer Playground program usually attracts about 500 children from multiple towns. This year, though, there will be only 144 children — Rockville Centre residents only.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo had announced in early June that summer day camps would be allowed across the state, so long as they have fewer campers, conduct health checks and follow safety measures.
At that point, the John A. Anderson Recreation Center had been getting calls asking if its annual day camp program would take place. Also, a survey that the recreation department sent out to past campers revealed that many were still interested in the program, said Karen Polito, supervisor of the Summer Playground program.
“We’re trying to bring a little bit of normalcy to these kids’ lives,” Polito said.
The program will look vastly different than in the past, however, to ensure the safety of children and camp counselors, which the program calls its “leaders.” The program is running at less than 30 percent of its normal capacity and will take place only at the recreation center, not at Wilson Elementary School like in previous years.
All leaders are required to wear face masks. Children do not have to, but it is strongly recommended.
When parents drop off their children, they have an option to drive up valet-style to have the campers’ temperatures checked. Or, parents may park and let the kids out. Either way, all campers must receive a temperature check each day with one of the camp’s six contactless thermometers. “We’re just trying to make it as easy as possible,” Polito noted.
Drop off for students will also be staggered by grade level “to avoid any congestion,” Polito said.
To further prevent large groups of kids playing together, the camp has been divided into “cohorts” of 10 to 12 children, each accompanied by two leaders. The cohorts spend the entire day together with their own bag of equipment. Each evening, the building and all equipment are sanitized. Also, the building and schedule for the day has been mapped out so that groups do not come in contact with one another, and there are designated “in” and “out” doors to the building.
The theme for this year’s Summer Playground is “Rec to the Rescue.” Each cohort has their own team name based on that theme, such as Dynamic Doctors, Happy Heroes, Fire Company and Navy Nuggets, to name a few.
Throughout the six-week program, which begins July 6, children will engage in activities relating to the theme. Leaders will have decorated capes and signs representing each group, and there will be a day when students can come dressed up as doctors, firefighters or whatever their group is.
“We’re trying to keep them outside as much as possible,” Polito noted.
Most activities will be outdoors, including kickball, scatterball and playing in the sprinklers. However, there will also be indoor activities, including movies, knock hockey, arts and crafts and playing in the game room. In between each group, maintenance staff will sanitize the room. There will also be hand sanitizing stations set up outside and inside the rec center.
And, Polito said, what would Summer Playground be without ice pops?
“Kids love ice pops at snack time,” she said. “That will be the most normal thing about their summer.”
The recreation center will also welcome 20 campers entering Kindergarten for their own program, split up into two groups of 10.
The program runs from July 6 to Aug. 14 weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. There is currently a waitlist, as all 144 spots are full.