Coronavirus Chicago: See what summer camp could look like amid COVID-19 pandemic

CHICAGO (WLS) -- At this time last year, some kids were gearing up for summer camp. But because of the coronavirus pandemic, the options will look a little different this year.

It's a summer of uncertainty for Shaakira Mason-Holloway. Like a lot of parents, the mother of 10-year-old Dion Jr. remains concerned that coronavirus will force the cancellations of camps. And she's left to wonder if there are programs open, will they be safe?

Right now, the Chicago Children's Theatre is planning to have camp beginning June 22, but the first three weeks would be virtual. The half-day program for all kids, including those with special needs, is limited to just 15 children per week and would be a combination of online and offline activities.

"We're getting up, we're active, we're creating," said Dexter Ellis, of Chicago Children's Theatre. "We're trying to replicate that experience. As much as we can in their home while still giving them a chance to be a community together.

The theater group hopes to eventually offer a limited in-person camp that would follow public health guidelines.

Pretty much most of the Chicago area camps are struggling to make plans for their camps during the pandemic.

The Chicago Park District's summer camp program - which serves roughly 55,000 kids across the city - has not been spared alteration either. A spokesperson said it will offer a modified version of its traditional summer day camp scheduled to begin Monday, July 6 and run through Friday, July 31. A delayed registration is to begin June 11.

But Kristina Betke, the owner of Wishcraft Workshop on the city's North Side, sayid she's about 50-percent booked for the what she hopes will still be an in person/interactive online summer camp.

The June 22 camp will only happen if her children's activity facility is allowed to open during Phase 3 of Illinois' reopening plan.

"If that is true and we're allowed to open in Phase 3, we're planning to have some amount of virtual and then being outdoors in person," Betke said. "We want to keep everybody safe."

Many summer camp are still trying to figure out how to compensate parents if programs are significantly altered or scrapped all together, creating quite an unknown for not just them, but kids, too.
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