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Here are summer camp options for Tampa Bay

Many camps are opening with new guidelines and significant changes.

TAMPA, Fla. — Online school is coming to a close over the next few weeks for students and that leaves many parents looking for suggestions on how to entertain their kids during the summer.  

Especially since so many camps are canceled or postponed this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation 2020 summer camp programs have been canceled. Polk County Parks and Recreation also canceled its 2020 summer camps.

Pasco County Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources (PRNR) is planning to host a modified 2020 Summer Day Camp program due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pinellas County camps are still under consideration. 

Sarasota County will offer five weekly summer camp sessions beginning June 29. Online and drop-off registrations for both specialty and day camp programs will open June 8. A sixth week of camp will be offered at Colonial Oaks and Woodmere Park from Aug. 3-7 (pending registrations and staff availability).

Manatee County's Summer Blast Camp will be held at the G.T. Bray Park Recreation Center and the John H. Marble Recreation Center starting Monday, June 1. Registration opened May 27 and is expected to fill quickly. Parents can register at www.mymanatee.org/summercamps

RELATED: Here's a list of Tampa Bay-area summer camps impacted by coronavirus concerns

With many parents heading back to work or, quite frankly, needing a break, this is causing some major child care issues. 

While many camps have canceled, there are plenty that have decided to push forward, follow some strict guidelines and get kids some much-needed enrichment, while giving parents a break. 

The Tampa YMCA is planning to open summer day camps on June 1. They have many options across the Tampa Bay area, so it shouldn't be too hard to find one within a decent driving distance. The Y camps can be an affordable option for many families and they have experience taking care of kids during this pandemic as they've been offering child care to essential workers since this began. 

Here are just a few of the measures the YMCA is taking to keep campers and staffers safe:

  • Before children and staff are checked in, their temperatures are taken 
  • Curbside check-in
  • Smaller camp groups spread throughout the whole facility 
  • Individual and spaced out activities 
  • More hand washing/sanitizer stations
  • Significant disinfecting of supplies and activity areas throughout the day

The city of Tampa is also continuing its "Summer Kickoff Camp" and "Stay and Play" opportunities. 

The camp is for kids from five to 12-year-old and will be held on a lottery system exclusive to Tampa residents. Anyone interested can register between May 26-27 on the city's website

While "Stay and Play" is for older teens age 13-18. The program runs from 6:30 p.m.- 10:30 p.m., seven days a week, starting June 1.

The city of Clearwater, also recognizing the need "to help give parents a break and to keep children active" will be hosting limited-capacity summer camps from June 8 through Aug. 7. To fill the slots and abided by CDC guidelines the city is holding a letter for camp spaces beginning May 27.

Parents looking to grab a spot need to head to the city's website between May 19 and 25 to enter. Priority will be given to Clearwater residents, local business owners and city employees. 

To help ensure safety and social distancing the city is implementing the following: assigning a staff member to a group of nine campers that will stay together daily, daily wellness checks of staff and campers, and eliminating field trips or large gatherings.

The Glazier Children's museum and MOSI will offer their popular summer camps as well. 

RELATED: MOSI set to reopen at 50-percent capacity May 27

The city of Tampa is also continuing its "Summer Kickoff Camp" and "Stay and Play" opportunities. 

The camp is for kids from five to 12-year-old and will be held on a lottery system exclusive to Tampa residents. Anyone interested can register between May 26-27 on the city's website

While "Stay and Play" is for older teens age 13-18. The program runs from 6:30 p.m.- 10:30 p.m., seven days a week, starting June 1.

Tampa Bay Parenting is keeping a running list of camps that are open, but Editorial Manager, Laura Byrne said you can expect to see some big changes this year.

"It's going to be a smaller group. There's that potential where parents aren't going to go inside to drop off their kids. It will be curbside drop off and check-in. They're going to have to bring their lunches in paper bags. There are going to be changes. They are going to be following CDC guidelines. That is pretty much what every camp has told us."

The best advice: if you want to get your child into a camp, act now because they are filling up fast. If you aren't comfortable dropping your child off at a camp with other kids, there are other options. 

Consider virtual camps, or nanny sharing with friends' kids to cut back on the cost. 

You can also look on social media sites like Facebook or NextDoor to try and find a college or high school student looking to make extra money this summer.

Despite all the things the camps are doing to try and keep your kids safe, what can parents do and what do your kids need to know before you send them off?  We reached out to Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital to find out and pediatric infectious disease doctor Juan Dumois gave us some tips.

Here are few tips for families considering whether to send their kids to summer camp:

  1. They should teach and reinforce proper hand hygiene to their kids. This includes the use of enough hand sanitizer so that it takes at least 15 seconds for your hands to dry while you are rubbing them, or using soap and water for at least 20 seconds. 
  2. Older children should wear a facemask in indoor settings, but masks should be avoided in children under two years of age. And, they should wash their hands immediately after removing a mask.

Here are some questions to ask the people planning the summer camp. If they don't have an adequate answer, assume that they don't have a plan.

  •  What are the ages of the children attending and how will they try to implement social distancing?
  • Will they have adequate supplies of hand sanitizer, paper towels, and no-touch trash cans?
  •  How often do they plan to disinfect the environment?
  •  Do they plan field trips?  (Field trips are not a good idea)
  •   Is there an area to isolate a child who becomes sick during camp?
  • If children will be in any communal areas, such as a dining hall, will the communal area be cleaned between each use?

What if you don't have a camp lined-up or you just can't afford the camps and you have to leave them home alone?  We found out that Florida does not have a set age when children can be home alone, but the Department of Children and Families recommends age 12. 

Kids mature at different rates, DCF recommends several things before you leave them home alone: 

  • Make sure your child knows emergency numbers and contacts
  • How to check-in by phone, 
  • Ground rules you set
  • Make sure they know escape plans in case of emergency

You can find a list of camps from the Tampa YMCA here.

You can find a list of camps from Tampa Bay Parenting here.

You can find Polk County camps from the Lakeland Mom website here.

RELATED: Tampa Bay virtual summer camp guide

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