More than 1,100 campers attended Summer Encounters at CCES from June 22 to August 14. The annual event included more than 200 camps, from “Frozen” Dance Camp for K4 students to SAT Prep for 12th graders. And, despite the pandemic, there were no reported cases of Covid-19 among campers.
“Summer Encounters is an important part of the overall CCES experience,” said Joe Cummings, Director of Auxiliary Programs at CCES.
“This year in particular, we felt an even greater sense of purpose to not only provide children the opportunity to have fun camp experiences, but also provide children an avenue to once again be with their peers in a structured environment.
“Our goal was to provide campers with the fun spirit of summer camp while maintaining health and safety.”
Preparing for Camp Early
Like they do each year, children from across Greenville County came to CCES to take part in camps. CCES students, as well as students from other schools in the Upstate, explore a variety of interests each week through various camp programs in Summer Encounters.
Because of the pandemic, Cummings and a large team of helpful and hard-working staff members—which included 40 counselors, all current CCES High School students or young alumni— began preparing for Summer Encounters in May.
“Back in late May and early June, we spent a tremendous amount of time researching guidelines from the CDC and the American Camp Association to create our own specific set of guidelines,” Cummings said.
“From that, we created a lengthy, detailed document for our internal employees that laid out every detail related to the return to campus.”
Cummings and crew also distributed a condensed parent version to camper families.
“Not only were we focused on returning to campus for camp, we wanted to maintain health and safety throughout the summer,” Cummings said. This type of plan called for an incredible team effort from so many members of our school community.”
Establishing Guidelines Designed to Keep Campers Healthy
The CCES maintenance team conducted a study to figure how many campers could safely occupy each space on campus to maintain physical distancing. The maintenance team also helped with the setup and breakdown for each camp each week. The custodial team helped clean each space on a daily basis, following a specific cleaning schedule during the day to clean rooms that would have a new group enter a space.
Kelly Koutsioukis, a Registered Nurse, nurse joined the CCES team to assist in efforts to follow best practices with campers and conduct in-take for camp teachers and counselors. Cohort groups were created to keep campers separate during the day. All campers were required to wear a mask during all transitions such as walking in the halls, during arrival and dismissal, as well as any time they couldn't physically distance, according to Cummings. When they arrived, all campers went through a screening process and had their temperatures taken.
“These are some of the highlights,” Cummings said, “but we went to great lengths to ensure that from the moment they arrived to the time they left, we were following our guidelines as best as possible.”
“None of us have done this before”
June 22, the first day of camp, was circled on everyone’s calendar.
“We were all a little nervous as to what this was going to be like,” Cummings said. “There aren't many times in life where there is a shared understanding that none of us have done this before.
“That was June 22nd; none of us had ever done this, so we were all hands on deck.”
The main message to teachers and counselors was clear: Stay positive, help one other, expect the unexpected, and control what you can control.
“I was so proud of our team because everyone took our training sessions very seriously, and we were prepared on the first day of camp,” Cummings said.
Making the Necessary Adjustments
As expected, adjustments were made after the first day and the first week.
“Thankfully all the planning covered the major pieces that needed to be taken care of,” Cummings said. “We knew we would have to make minor adjustments once the doors opened, and it took the whole team to ensure we were operating at a high level.”
That students would have fun, learn, and grow during Summer Encounters was a given. Campers have been having fun, learning, and growing since CCES began offering Summer Encounters in 1993.
That students would stay safe and healthy over the summer during a pandemic required planning. Before camp started, Cummings and his team went camp by camp to note which camps likely needed to be cancelled or ones that needed to be significantly adjusted in order to operate.
“Again, we kept our goal of keeping the spirit of summer camp fun while maintaining health and safety in mind when we made all of these decisions,” Cummings said. “It was a major effort and called for tremendous amounts of communication with our camp teachers to ensure we were all on the same page.
“In the end, we found that even though camp may have worked a little differently, our teachers were steadfast in their positivity to meet these kids where they were and still have a fun camp experience.”
While a new school year at CCES begins, the guidelines have slightly changed because each division (Lower, Middle, Upper) must navigate more variables.
“Our school leaders have done a tremendous job in planning the upcoming school year,” Cummings said, “and I am grateful that Summer Encounters could provide a preview into what they should expect as we welcome students back to campus five days a week.”
Excited for Students to Return to Campus
A lacrosse coach, Cummings uses a sports analogy to convey his confidence for the upcoming school year.
“When we prepare for a game, my hope is to give our players everything they need to help them be successful,” he said. “Preparation is everything in competitive sports. You do all you can to prepare, but once the first whistle blows, things happen, and you have to fall back on your training and preparation to find a way to succeed.”
Cummings believes the upcoming school year will be very similar for our school.
“Our school leaders have done a tremendous job in preparing our faculty, students, and families for the upcoming school year, and now it's game time. I am confident our school is prepared, and I am excited that we have the opportunity to bring our students back to campus.”
A huge THANK YOU goes out to the entire frontline team for giving our kids a safe and curious summer. Click here for a list of names.