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Franklin Square, Elmont summer camps return with new safety guidelines

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Last year, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, only 60 percent of summer day camps were held in person, according to the American Camp Association. This year, following the May 28 release of updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for summer camps, local day camps are poised for a return to in-person activities.

“Last year was challenging — it was slow,” said Kee Ma, president of the Floral Park location of Code Ninjas, a coding center that teaches children how to code by creating their own video games. Ma, who has run Code Ninjas since 2019, noted that it held its summer camp virtually last year due to the pandemic. This year, it will be in person.

Last year’s economic slowdown hurt the coding center, Ma said, but he added that this year, things are looking “healthier” all around, and parents and campers are excited about a return to in-person camp activities.

The Code Ninjas summer camp, which debuted in June 2018, is slated to run from June 28 through the last week of August. This year, its goal is to make the camp experience “new and fresh,” with new video game themes, Ma said.

Covid-19 concerns remain despite the desire of many summer camps to return to in-person activities, and many camps are implementing more stringent safety precautions. Ma said that he and the coding center staff were looking forward to returning to normal, and that they had been preparing since January.

Code Ninjas’ Covid update page on its website calls for attentiveness to cleanliness, social distancing, and personal health and hygiene. Lower student capacity, increased distance between students, no-contact interactions and more stringent enforcement of hand-washing and hygiene are among the policies it will follow.

Mindnasium, a children’s entertainment center in Franklin Square that focuses on science, technology, engineering, arts and math-related activities for children ages 4 to 10, is also holding an in-person summer camp this year. It is set to kick off on June 28 and continue through August 20.

Mindnasium’s reopening plan and guidelines are based on the CDC’s latest recommendations, and can be found on the company’s website, which includes a message that “these guidelines will be strictly enforced for the safety of our staff and customers.” 

Masks are required, and space for the camp is limited due to social distancing concerns. Mindnasium’s requirements include social distancing, mask-wearing, the use of hand sanitizers, temperature checks and extensive cleaning of toys and other high-touch surfaces.

“The well-being of our customers and the cleanliness at our establishment has always been a top priority for us,” the website reads. “The CDC’s guidelines will be instilled in our facility in order to ensure safety of our guests.” 

Mindnasium urged customers to stay home if they believe they have come into contact with someone exposed to the coronavirus. “This not only applies to Mindnasium, but must be followed in our daily lives during this unprecedented time,” its website reads. “Let’s keep ourselves safe and those around us safe as well.”

“We are continuing to make incredible progress against Covid and lifting restrictions based on the science and numbers, but we are not yet at the finished line,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release. “To help ensure maximum protections for staff and children at child care and camp programs, we are issuing this guidance so the facilities can implement basic but critical measures that will allow them to operate safely.”

The CDC’s May 28 update for summer camps recommended vaccination for all employees and campers who are eligible, and noted that fully vaccinated camp environments are allowed to return to in-person activities at full capacity, without masking and social distancing, 

The CDC also stressed that “camp programs should be supportive of campers or staff who choose to wear a mask,” and that outdoor and socially distanced activities are preferable at camps where not everyone is vaccinated.