Summer camps are beginning to open in Washington state

KIRKLAND, Wash. - It’s a rare sight lately to see kids not related to each other in one room playing.

For the group at the Boy & Girls Club in Kirkland, it’s out of necessity.

They are kids of essential workers who never stopped working amid the pandemic.

“I wouldn’t be able to work,” Linda Bunn said.

Bunn is a nurse on the front lines, and every morning she drops off her grandson Joe.

"Joe has been coming here for 4 years and they have been just wonderful. My daughter passed away a year-and-a-half ago, and I’ve been taking care of Joe,” Bunn said.

It has remained an outlet for social interaction, a precious commodity that so many kids are now lacking.

Since the Boys & Girls Club of King County never closed, we can look to them to get a glimpse of what summer camps across Washington state could look like.

It starts with health screenings every time a kid is dropped off, including a temperature reading.

Families are also asked various questions about COVID-19 before kids can enter the club.

“Our new normal is doing a lot of cleaning, smaller group sizes,” Area Director Jamie Heil said.

During summer camp it will be one staff to nine kids.

There will be no field trips, no shared games or toys and no playground equipment.

“Kids are out in the field and learning how to just play in the field,” Heil said.

Heil spends a lot of her time gently reminding kids to fight their natural inclinations.

“They don’t remember, they want to hug their friend, they want to be go up to their friend,” Heil said.

There will be a lot more reminders to physically distance starting on Monday when the Boys & Girls Club welcomes all kids to summer camp. The organization also says they required all staff to wear face masks starting June 8.

Kids will be encouraged to wear face masks but it will not be mandatory.

Over in Snoqualmie, Big Star Performing Arts Studio is also getting ready for camp.

“We just have to get the doors open,” owner Kathy Gehrig said.

Gehrig and co-owner Corey Schwarz say Big Star is unique: they teach musical theater, hip hop and jazz.

They also provide private lessons for various musical instruments.

Gehrig says their small business saw major growth for 9 years but the pandemic forced it to close back in March.

“For so many of these kids it’s such a sanctuary. We have kids who suffer from anxiety and depression ... for them this is the place they come to alleviate those problems, and for them not having it is really crippling,” Gehrig said.

So they want families to come back starting mid-July with new regulations in place.

Big Star says they will use boxes as distance markers to remind kids to socially distance. Kids will also have to sing through masks.

The camp says they have heard from families ready to come back as soon as they open.

“I feel comfortable letting my kids participate in camps, especially if there is good communication from people running the camps,” Anne Taylor said.

But others are undecided.

“So many different sides to it, it’s so hard,” Amy McCrery said.

McCrery is a full-time nurse with three kids to homeschool.

“It’s overwhelming and intense,” McCrery said.

The risk of COVID-19 will take precedence over the hardships at home for many families.

“There are plenty of parents who have concerns and rightfully so, that’s why we are going to try to accommodate both,” Schwarz said.

Big Star will continue to offer online options over the summer.

Boys & Girls Club of King County also started online programs.

The organization says families are signing up for summer camp everyday but enrollment is lower than last summer.