The Keewaydin Foundation staff are closely monitoring the latest COVID-19 developments and will post updates on this web-page as they occur.
Please take good care of yourself and stay healthy!
- The spring KEEC program has been canceled (March 30, 2020)
- Wall Street Journal Article Quotes Pete Hare (March 27, 2020)
- Letter Regarding Office Availability During Non-Essential Business Shutdown in VT (March 25, 2020)
- “How Keewaydin Prepared Me for a Global Health Crisis” – from Johnny Clore ’00 (March 23, 2020)
- Questions and Answers Related to Keewaydin’s Refund Policy and Trip Insurance (March 18, 2020)
- Trip Insurance Update (March 16, 2020)
- Leadership Luncheon Canceled (March 16, 2020)
- Young Alumni Event Canceled (March 16, 2020)
- Letter to Parents and Alumni (March 13, 2020)
The Spring KEEC Program Has Been Canceled (March 30, 2020)
The following letter was sent on Friday, March 27 to all schools registered for the 2020 Spring KEEC season. KEEC is the Keewaydin Environmental Education Center, a program run out of Songa and Keewaydin in the spring and fall for elementary school groups, primarily from Vermont.
As you know, we have been keeping a close eye on news related to the spread of Covid-19 and trying to figure
out what our best steps would be regarding whether or not to operate the KEEC program this spring.
In light of all that has been going on lately, we were anticipating and hoping that KEEC would still be able to be
a positive experience in which students would be able to participate.
While there were still many unknowns, we realized that school closures could have a significant impact on our
ability to be able to operate this spring. We were preparing for the possibility of having to make the tough
decision to cancel spring KEEC.
In light of Gov. Scott’s announcement on March 26th, regarding the dismissal of all schools through the end of
the year, that decision was ultimately made for us.
Before this announcement was made, we were in contact with many teachers and administrators about KEEC.
I was impressed by how many teachers I contacted who were still so positive about the potential to come to
KEEC this spring to share in that experience with their students. That same positivity is what is needed for the
students in our schools and I know the dedicated teachers who participate in KEEC are doing their best right
now to make sure all of their students are still well cared for.
We will miss having all of the students at KEEC this spring but know that, after these uncertain times pass,
KEEC will still be here for many years to come!
Tim Tadlock, Director
Wall Street Journal Article Quotes Pete Hare (March 27, 2020):
Summer Camps in Northeast Scramble to Deal With Coronavirus Fallout: Camps aim to figure out if they can open, how the safety rules might change and whether parents will send their children
By Leslie Brody, March 25, 2020
With parents and children cooped up in self-isolation in the New York City area, many are dreaming of summer camp to take a break from each other.
But whether camps can open is unclear.
Leaders of sleep-away and day camps say they hope they can operate and will follow the guidance of federal, state and local health authorities as rules may change rapidly. Many say that during the coronavirus crisis, with all of its stress and school closures, children will need the camaraderie, sports and adventures of camp more than ever.
Families of all income levels depend on camps for child care and fun, but many parents are in a wait-and-see mode. Even some campers are leery. That includes 13-year-old Lee Walker Watson in Manhattan, who loves laser tag, trampoline and spy games at his sleep-away camp in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania.
“Right now, in light of what’s happening, I’m not sure I want to go to camp,” he said. “You never know where people have been. If one person has coronavirus, we’ll have to go home anyway.”
Because of registrations before March, some camp leaders say enrollment has remained roughly steady, but they aren’t getting the typical round of calls from parents who waited until spring to make plans. Many parents who signed up early have delayed sending final payments. Some camps are being flexible about deadlines.
Camp leaders say they are preparing for extra scrubbing of facilities and stricter health checks for children and staff, such as taking temperatures regularly. Some hope rapid tests for the virus will be available before opening day, often in late June, to screen everyone before arrival for programs that generally range from one to eight weeks.
Darlene Calton, a director of Camp Netimus, a sleep-away camp for 145 girls in the Poconos, said topic No. 1 with parents at orientation will be how staffers handle infectious disease. “We have protocols for that because once a child gets a cough it can go through camp like wildfire,” she said. “If kids can safely go to camp, they will be knocking down the doors.”
Officials at the American Camp Association, which has more than 3,100 member camps with about 10.4 million campers, say summer camps are a $3.6 billion industry nationwide. They say the virus might delay camps’ openings, bar visiting days, limit children with medical conditions and require extra nursing staff. Concerns about germs might also affect how children get to camp, such as foregoing the use of buses.
Travel restrictions could hamper the hiring of international counselors—often a mainstay because they enjoy summer jobs in America—but domestic college students could be more available due to the cancellation of summer abroad programs, they said.
An association representative said member camps follow safety guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and he hadn’t yet seen any new federal or state directives specifically for summer camps since openings were still months away.
A spokeswoman for the New York Department of Health said that as the camp season approaches, “relevant guidance will be provided as more information concerning COVID19 becomes available.”
Susie Lupert, executive director of the association’s affiliate for New York and New Jersey, said it was especially important now for parents to focus on accredited camps so they can be sure that state health authorities are licensing them and monitoring adherence to standards. Camps have faced infectious diseases before, such as last summer’s measles outbreak, she said: “Camps are used to having curveballs thrown at them.”
New York City’s Department of Education is advertising its free summer day camps for various ages citywide, although its school buildings are closed until at least April 20, with students asked to use remote-learning options. A department spokeswoman said it was too early to predict whether there will be camp changes.
At Keewaydin, a nonprofit camp organization based in Salisbury, Vt., executive director Pete Hare said a former camper had written him a long letter about how facing the unexpected twists of its wilderness canoe trips had helped him deal with the rigors of self-isolation during the pandemic.
Cancellations had been minimal, Mr. Hare said, though some parents in Spain had called saying their children might not be able to fly in.
“The biggest challenge is just being prepared and thinking through all the possible contingencies,” he said. If Keewaydin can’t open, it promised tuition refunds, minus $500 deposits, to parents who paid already. Fees range from $4,675 for four weeks to $9,850 for eight weeks, and some campers get scholarships.
If Keewaydin’s affiliated camps can’t open for their total of nearly 700 campers, the organization would lose about $2 million to $2.5 million this summer. “That’s awful but we would survive,” Mr. Hare said. “We are confident we would weather the storm.”
Alison Bellino Johnston, a mother of three in Manhattan, plans to send her boys to Keewaydin if it opens. She takes heart that campers can sleep in open-air tents rather than squeezing into dormitories. “My boys would be crushed” if it is canceled, she said, “but there are people with real problems in the world.”
“Most kids who go there love it and feel it’s a huge part of their life, but certainly it could be worse,” she said. “The kids who would lose out are the kids who would go there this summer on scholarship.”
Parents working from home in close quarters with their families are hoping for vacations, too. Sue Ellen Greenberg at Student Summers, a camp-advisory service based in Franklin Lakes, N.J., said that “If this thing dissipates, everyone, after being cooped up with their children, will want their kids to go to camp because they’ll need a break.’’
Source: The Wall Street Journal
Letter Regarding Office Availability During Business Shutdown in VT (March 25, 2020):
How Keewaydin Prepared Me for a Global Health Crisis (March 23, 2020):
Johnny Clore ’00 recently shared these reflections with Director, Pete Hare. Johnny was a Dunmore camper 1999-2001, staff 2005-2016, and Wiantinaug Director 2013-2016.
Yesterday, I was exchanging text messages with Ash Phillips (Wiantinaug staffman 2008-2016) as we shared updates about our experiences in social isolation for COVID-19. To get his exercise, Ash mentioned that he’s been introducing his roommates to the workout routine we used to do at camp for Wiantinaug fitness club. Pushups, situps, squats, no equipment required. His adaptation of this regimen got me thinking about how well camp has actually prepared me for dealing with the current global health crisis. In ways large and small, Keewaydin teaches its campers and staff to prepare carefully, adapt quickly, and live joyously in whatever circumstances may arise.
An early lesson in this philosophy came for me in 2002, when I was a camper on a Wilderness trip to the Rupert River. A little under two weeks into the trip, after leaving Lake Mistassini and running parts of the Marten River on our way to the Rupert, we became aware that large forest fires were blazing across northern Quebec. If the smoke-blackened sky and fire-red sun were not clues enough, Sam Cooncum, our Cree guide, was prepared with a radio and managed to uncoil long wire antennae to communicate a signal back to the fire department in Mistassani Post. They confirmed the dangerous situation and immediately began driving to evacuate us. We paddled to the nearest road and waited. When the “calvary” arrived, they were flying down a dirt road in a fire truck, blasting Brittney Spears as they sent dust flying in their wake. We loaded our canoes in a precarious heap on top of the rescue vehicle, piled into the back, and enjoyed the music on a very bumpy, very dusty ride to Mistassani. Once there, we slept in Sam’s basement, enjoyed a feast of Canada goose, and waited for Seth Gibson to arrive. When we saw the familiar Keewaydin van and trailer, we loaded it with great alacrity and hopped on board. The next leg of our journey featured Seth’s classic books on tape instead of the fire department’s pop, but nevertheless, we enjoyed the ride west, out of the fires and onto the Missanabi River, where we would conclude our trip by paddling into Moosonee on the James Bay. This wasn’t the river we’d planned to paddle or the trip we’d expected to have. But Keewaydin never gave us a moment to dwell on what was lost; instead, our leaders encouraged us to embrace what lay ahead and revel in the unique experiences the journey would afford us. A decade later, when I revisited Moosonee as a member of Expedition 2012, it occurred to me that the unexpected elements of my wilderness trip prepared me for future challenges and opportunities in unforeseen ways; it’s hard to predict where life will lead us, but if we listen, the bumpy, winding road we’ve walked has a way of teaching us the skills and dispositions that we need to continue walking wherever that road may lead.
In a smaller way, these lessons resurfaced in the summer of 2008, when it seemed to rain every day at camp. It rained so much that the Wiantinaug OD shelter became an island. The docks had to be weighted down with ABS canoes filled with water. Despite Owen’s best efforts to monitor the weather radar, our activities constantly needed adjusting. Afternoon activity periods originally scheduled for rock climbing at the Falls of Lana quickly became games in the Lodge. Tennis became stories with Eddie Dobson. Basketball became dam building in the streams that poured off the side of Mount Moosalamoo. Carefully planned out activities had to be scrapped just about every day. In their place, new activities sprung to life and brought joy to everyone in even the dampest of days. We paddled the flooded White River. We taught rock-paper-scissors strategy (including the now infamous “Claw” move which features an ambiguous and adjustable hand configuration). We hosted finger jousting tournaments and I pioneered a still undefeated “backstroke swoop” technique, which revolutionized finger jousting across the world (or at least in Wiantinaug). Chris Nevin also seized on this activity to make one of the greatest activity circle puns of all time when he asserted that these hand games were entirely fitting of “today’s digital age.” Despite the rainy weather, the summer of 2008 was one of my most memorable and most fun summers ever; we planned for each day, adjusted when the weather changed, and reveled in the fun we found amidst the flood.
As I sit around the house, waiting out the coronavirus, I’m reminded of these moments from camp and I’m inspired to adapt and enjoy the “new normal” just as we did on those rainy days in the lodge. Learning to teach via “distance learning” platforms will likely help me to improve my pedagogy in general. Minimizing trips to the grocery store will help me to develop better habits around eating my leftovers. Being cooped up at home has helped me to get in a routine of calling friends and family on a daily basis. Everyone is facing different challenges in this trying time. Some are undoubtedly facing more dire straits and more uncertain futures than I. Nevertheless, I know that for me, Keewaydin has built a set of dispositions that will carry me through this and any challenges that lie ahead.
Johnny Clore, March 20, 2020
Questions and Answers:
Keewaydin’s Refund Policy and Trip Insurance (March 18, 2020):
A number of parents have had questions related to trip insurance and about our refund plan. We apologize for any confusion. We hope this letter will answer your questions!
Will Keewaydin refund tuition if it has to cancel camp?
Yes, if Keewaydin cancels or interrupts the summer programs due to COVID-19, we will refund the tuition paid for the portion of camp missed, except your $500 deposit.
Will Keewaydin refund tuition if families cancel?
No, if a family makes the decision to cancel — for whatever reason — tuition is non-refundable. This has always been our policy.
Should families get trip insurance?
We recommend that families purchase trip insurance. CampDoc offers a basic plan, which is available to all families, and a deluxe plan, which includes a “cancel for any reason” policy, only available to those who have not yet paid tuition in full. The link to the CampDoc trip insurance is www.campdoc.com/protection-plan
The benefits of trip insurance generally include protection in case you cancel for sickness or injury or other reasons. Ultimately, you should understand the policy coverage, but our understanding is that a “cancel for any reason” plan gives you almost unlimited reasons for canceling, including (i) camper withdrawal before a decision is made by Keewaydin to cancel, or (ii) the family decides to not send their child to camp and camp is “on.”
Will trip insurance cover tuition loss if Keewaydin cancels camp?
It is unlikely that any trip insurance, including the CampDoc product, will refund your tuition if Keewaydin cancels all or part of the summer program. However, in such a case, Keewaydin would refund tuition as stated above.
If Keewaydin cancels or interrupts the summer programs due to COVID-19, we will refund the tuition paid for the portion of camp missed, except your $500 deposit.
If your family decides to cancel and camp is “on,” the tuition is non-refundable by Keewaydin.
If your family decides to cancel for any reason and you have the “cancel for any reason” plan, your insurance will refund your tuition subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.
We are remaining hopeful that we will be able to have camp this summer and we are keeping ourselves informed in order to make the best decisions!
Trip Insurance Update (March 16, 2020):
We have learned from CampDoc that the trip insurance plan may soon require that it be purchased prior to 90 days before the camp start date. We strongly encourage you to purchase trip insurance as soon as possible. As a reminder, here is important information, including the link to CampDoc, that we sent to you last Friday,
“We recommend that families purchase trip cancellation insurance. A basic plan covers you, among other reasons, if your child is ill or injured and can’t come to camp. If you get a “cancel for any reason” policy, you can cancel and get a refund for any reason. If you have not yet paid your tuition in full, you can get a trip cancellation policy with “cancel for any reason” from CampDoc, www.campdoc.com/protection-plan. The basic plan is available even if you have already paid tuition in full. For your own protection and for the best interests of Keewaydin, we urge you to purchase trip cancellation insurance as soon as possible.”
Wishing all of you well,
The Keewaydin Leadership Team
Leadership Luncheon CANCELED (March 16, 2020):
The Keewaydin Foundation’s Leadership Luncheon, originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 7, has been canceled.
Young Alumni Event CANCELED (March 16, 2020):
This gathering, originally scheduled for Sunday, April 5 at The Wren at 344 Bowery in New York City, has been canceled.
Letter to Keewaydin Parents and Alumni (March 13, 2020):
Dear Keewaydin Community,
The outbreak of COVID-19 has prompted several inquiries from parents about the potential disruption to our camps over the summer. Many of our alumni have also reached out to offer their support and encouragement and to inquire about how we are responding to this health crisis facing our country and our world.
Below is the correspondence sent last Friday morning to all parents of campers currently enrolled at each of our camps. In addition, we are in close communication with the Vermont schools who participate in KEEC (Keewaydin Environmental Education Center) in order to decide how we will proceed with that program this spring.
My thanks to you all for your continued support as we navigate the ever-changing landscape ahead.
Letter to Parents (represents merged content of letters to account for camp-specific information)
Dear Keewaydin and Songadeewin Families,
We are deep into our preparations for the summer, including, as always, making sure that camp is
prepared to keep our campers healthy and safe during the summer. Given the level of attention focused on COVID-19, we want to reach out to you to let you know how we are preparing ourselves for the 2020 summer season.
Most importantly, we are reviewing all of our policies and protocols related to making sure that staff and campers arrive healthy and not potentially contagious; screening campers and staff when they arrive; maintaining a high level of hygiene and sanitation at camp; and providing the best possible health care for campers and staff while at camp.
To help achieve this at Dunmore and Songadeewin, we are working with the state public health department and our own consulting physician’s practice, as well as consulting with the recommendations of the CDC and the American Camp Association. At Temagami, we are working with Temiskaming Health Unit, and our consulting physicians, as well as following the recommendations of the CDC and the Ontario Camps Association. We are extremely fortunate to have experienced and high-quality medical staff at all the camps and to work with outstanding medical practices in Middlebury, and Temagami.
We recommend that families purchase trip cancellation insurance. A basic plan covers you, amongother reasons, if your child is ill or injured and can’t come to camp. If you get a “cancel for any reason” policy, you can cancel and get a refund for any reason. If you have not yet paid your tuition in full, you can get a trip cancellation policy with “cancel for any reason” from CampDoc, www.campdoc.com/protection-plan. The basic plan is available even if you have already paid tuition in full. For your own protection and for the best interests of Keewaydin, we urge you to purchase trip cancellation insurance as soon as possible.
In the unlikely event that that our summer camp programs have to be canceled or interrupted because of COVID-19 and your trip insurance does not cover your loss, Keewaydin will refund tuition paid for the portion of camp missed, with the exception of your $500 deposit.
With the heightened anxiety around the world related to COVID-19, we have one important element on our side: time. Camp doesn’t open for another three and a half months. In the meantime, there will be steady developments, new information, and clearer recommendations as COVID-19 runs its course in the US and around the world. We will be following these closely in order to be prepared to make the best decisions and we will give you updates as we have them!
Peter Hare Ellen Flight Emily Schoelzel
Executive Director Songadeewin Director Keewaydin Director