By Jason Wilkie

Executive Director, Camp Silaom

Camp Siloam plans for summer camp in 2021

By Jason Wilkie

Executive Director, Camp Silaom

Camp Siloam is pleased to announce it is making plans to be open and hosting summer camp in 2021.  Registration for summer 2021 will open on November 1st, 2020.  The staff at Camp Siloam feel that even if the Arkansas Department of Health COVID-19 directives related to summer residential camps do not change it can host camp safely and effectively.

Some changes to Camp Siloam’s summer are inevitable in order to make summer camp safe, however, three key areas of concern (meetings, meals and lodging) have been addressed by the staff under the current directive making it possible to move forward.

The decision to move ahead with summer 2021 is based upon a better understanding of the virus and how it is spread.  Other factors in this decision are seeing and hearing how students are complying with social distancing and face mask directives in the schools. 

“What I am hearing from educators is that (as a whole) students are willing to participate in preventing the spread of the virus and those prevention measures are becoming normalized in our culture,” said Jason Wilkie, Executive Director. “Camp might seem a little bit different next summer but the primary elements of Camp Siloam that our campers and counselors have come to love will remain a part of the program.”

The plan for 2021 is based upon the Arkansas Department of Health directive that was issued on May 21st, 2020.  There is a chance that directive could change in the next 9 months, but Camp Siloam is planning as if it will not change. 

“It is easiest for us to create a summer camp program under the current directives and then relax our prevention measures if Arkansas moves to Phase 3 or the world has a vaccine,” said Wilkie.

One of the key areas Camp Siloam staff had to address was lodging.  The camp staff spent a day working through a bunkbed layout plan that meets the directive of six foot spacing, minimizing risk and still maintains capacity.  The staff thought through several different types of bunkbed arrangements and found one that works in each different type of room.

When the staff knew that they could sleep campers and counselors in a safe way, then they addressed the worship service, food service and program components of camp.  These elements are addressed by splitting the campers into cohorts and then creating a program where they experience worship, activities and meals in those cohort groups.

“The program team’s goal is to create the same look and feel of a Camp Siloam summer as much as possible,” said Wilkie. “The plan still has a lot of details to work out, but with the time we have we feel we can make Summer 2021 just as impactful as it has always been.” 

The May 21st Arkansas Directive regarding Summer Residential Camps was deemed too restrictive for many church camps in Arkansas because of the outbreaks in other congregate settings, the changing information related to the virus on almost a daily basis, the uncertainty of preventative measures and the negative publicity for those organizations that experienced outbreaks.

“Time will tell if the staff and Board of Trustees made the right decision to cancel summer camp 2020.  There was a lot of fear and uncertainty related to the virus at that time.  Our registration numbers were dropping, and confidence was waning.  Through the summer we saw other camps struggle with low attendance and outbreaks.  We avoided the worst-case scenario which was ramping up for camp and then having to close back down again,” said Wilkie.

“Today there is a greater understanding of the virus, how it spreads and how important masks are to preventing the spread.  People are used to social distancing, masks, temperature checks and cleaning.  Students miss their friends so much they are willing to comply with COVID-19 rules just to be with one another again.  What I see in our organizations and institutions is that we are willing to absorb some bumps and rocky starts if it means we get to stay open.”

Camp Siloam’s plans for summer camp will still need to be submitted to the Arkansas Department of Health for approval. 

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