Why are sessions different this year?
Friends Camp has historically run 4, 2-week sessions throughout our summer including a 1-week option for children under twelve. A few things are different this summer: we need additional time between sessions for cleaning and staff rest, every arrival of youth is considered a public health risk, and when sessions are longer there is a possibility for reducing some pandemic restrictions. For this reason, we have chosen to slightly adjust our sessions in 2021 to support the best, safest experience for youth. In 2022, we hope to return to our traditional 2-week session structure.
Is there a 1-week option for Jones this year?
No, sorry. Our minimum session length this summer is 2 weeks for 2021, because of pandemic safety requirements. Longer sessions reduce the risk of a camp session acting as a COVID-19 spreading event, and they are also more at risk of being cancelled or not permitted by the State of Maine. We plan to offer a 1-week option again for campers ages 7-12 in 2022.
Can I register my child for multiple sessions?
Because of our reduced capacity this summer and a commitment to serving as many youth and families as possible during the pandemic, we are allowing campers to register for only 1 session each.
What resources is Friends Camp using to safely plan camp?
The State of Maine provides guidelines for youth camps to operate, which will be updated throughout the spring and summer. Friends Camp is active in the American Camp association and Maine Summer Camps, two organizations that help camps deliver safe programs. In addition, Friends Camp has a Health and Safety Committee who are helping to guide and shape the policies and procedures this summer. We will use many layers of protection at camp, including face masks, cohorted grouping, testing, hand-washing, pre-arrival requirements, limiting trips by anyone in and out of camp, and more. Many more details about health requirements will be shared before registration opens, as well as throughout the spring and summer. We want to both provide needed information to families and stay flexible so that we can offer the safest and most practical experience we can this summer.
What is going to be different about camp this year?
The COVID-19 pandemic has required some changes in our camp program. While we are still working out some of the details, we know that two of the most important changes will be that campers spend more time in smaller, cohorted groups and that campers will practice social distancing with members of other groups. Campers will interact with their “household group” as though they are a family, except perhaps for the first few days of camp when they may wear masks even around each other. Beyond their “household group” campers will do some programs with other campers, using precautions such as wearing masks and staying outdoors as much as possible. Creating cohorted groups will allow us to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission at camp and make contact tracing possible in the event of an outbreak. Indoors, whole-camp gatherings will not happen in 2021, but gatherings outside will be possible with masks and other guidelines.
Certain health requirements will be different than previous years, including what happens if a camper isn’t feeling well. More details of our infectious disease response plan will be available later in the spring. We are considering having COVID-19 testing on site, if is practical and affordable and recommended by our Health & Safety Committee or other advising agencies.
Camper drop-off and pick-up will happen outside of cabins and with minimal contact between families and camp staff. Campers won’t travel off camp using vans for field trips in 2021, and we will not have outside visitors to the camp property. In addition to programmatic changes, we are making some physical changes to the camp property including more outdoor program spaces, increased ventilation, and more.
Will camp still be fun?
YES! We can’t wait to splash in the lake, have campfires, make art, enjoy beautiful sunset vespers, make new friends, and generally be a camp community. All of the most important reasons to attend camp are still there. We think some of these changes to our camp program might be even more fun. For example, we’re planning to construct a few smaller fire pits so that cabin/household groups can have more small-group campfires.
How many people will be at camp?
We are hiring more staff members as in a typical summer at camp and are currently planning for 80% of our typical camper capacity at one time.
Will there be a travel ban for campers from out-of-state?
Based on current Maine guidelines, we believe it is extremely likely that a combination of testing and pre-camp requirements will be in place to allow out-of-state campers to attend Friends Camp in 2021. Friends Camp will not be able to pick up or drop off youth at public transportation this summer.
What if our family changes their mind about camp this summer, or public health requirements mean we cannot attend? Will we get a refund?
This year, the Friends Camp deposit amount is refundable for a COVID-19 related reason at any time, less a $50 service fee per child. For cancellation based on any other reasons, the deposit is refundable until only April 1. We understand that many families need flexibility in making plans this year, and as much advance notice about your plans as you can provide is helpful to Friends Camp. For families applying for camperships, the service fee amount is $10 per child.
What will our family do to help keep camp safe for everyone?
Friends Camp will have some requirements for families before they attend camp this summer. These will depend somewhat on the public health situation at the time, and they will be communicated in advance. At the minimum, we expect to require a symptom tracking journal before arrival at camp for each camper, a PCR COVID-19 test prior to arrival, and that families limit their contacts before camp for at least 1 week.
We are still working out the details of specific requirements given the changing landscape of public health, but the more families who are able to limit their outside contacts as much as possible before our camp sessions increase safety for all. Some families may not be able to quarantine due to work or other requirements, and it our hope to be as accessible as possible while also limiting the risk of COVID-19 transmission at camp.
My teenager typically attends New England Yearly Meeting Sessions in August. Can they still attend Sessions AND Camp?
NEYM Youth Staff and Friends Camp leadership have been working together to care for youth and families this coming summer. Due to pre-session requirements and uncertainty about whether NEYM Sessions will be held in person, the entire Youth Ministries staff of NEYM (in consultation with NEYM leadership) are encouraging high-school-aged Young Friends to attend camp in August. Young Friends Coordinator Maggie Nelson plans to be at Friends Camp during the Rustin/Fell Session in August, offering spiritual resources and ministry to all campers including Young Friends. NEYM and Friends Camp are committed to financially supporting any Young Friends’ session at camp as needed. New England Yearly Meeting’s Youth Ministry programs will continue to strive to meet the needs of as many Quaker youth as possible next summer with a variety of virtual and, hopefully small scale in-person, experiences. More information on these opportunities will be shared early in the new year. Families with questions are encouraged to reach out to Maggie (Maggie@neym.org) or JHYM Coordinator Gretchen (firstname.lastname@example.org) directly; we’d all love to talk with you.
What is the Rising Leaders program?
Rising Leaders is an application-based counselor-in-training program. This summer, Rising Leaders will have an opportunity to learn valuable skills about programming for youth, develop their own leadership abilities and self-knowledge, and talk about what it means to be a Quaker camp. The Rising Leaders program for 2021 is currently full, and we are not accepting campers to a waitlist.
Is the price of camp changing? What if my family needs help affording camp?
For 2021, the cost of camp per camper has increase, due to COVID-specific additions and due to a reduced capacity. After careful planning and reflection, we have instated a 12% increase on the daily rate of camp. Each session is priced based on the number of days it contains, so longer sessions are more expensive. You can see the pricing structure for 2021 camp sessions here. Friends Camp is continuing our voluntary three-tiered tuition structure this year, and we ask each family to carefully consider the amount they can contribute for their camper’s session. If your family cannot afford the price of camp, we still want you to be here and are prepared to help! All campers and families are welcome to apply for campership funding, with applications due February 1.
Won’t a COVID-19 vaccine be available by the summer? Is all of this planning overkill?
Throughout the pandemic, our priority has been the safety and well-being of our campers, their families, staff, and our wider community. While we are very hopeful that some community members will be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the summer months, there remains considerable uncertainty about whether this vaccine will be approved for use in children or widely available to all. Friends Camp will not require a COVID-19 vaccination for the upcoming summer programs.