COVID-19 hasn’t stopped summer camps from reopening in Pembroke Pines

A number of summer camps have decided to reopen in Pembroke Pines, assuring nervous parents their young ones will remain safe. 

At the start of the pandemic, summer camp was not a possibility, but as the city entered Phase 1 of the reopening process, camp directors consulted with doctors as well as officials from the Florida Department of Children and Families to make sure it was safe to reopen. 

The city has five camps, all of which are designed for children ranging from three months to five years old. Each would normally have a range of activities, including: performing and creative arts, water play, enrichment classes such as cooking and reading readiness, and S.T.E.A.M (science, technology, engineering the arts and math) related events and games. 

Terri Sousa, director of Pines West Academy, said her teachers have gone through extensive training to ensure safety and sanitation. 

“We went to nine workshops. We went in with a doctor, a pediatrician and a hospital cleaning crew. We went above and beyond,” she said. 

Cristina Muci, a teacher at the KLA School of Pembroke Pines, said that the school has incorporated new equipment and procedures to optimize cleanliness. 

“We installed a sink outside of the school. We take our temperature, wash our hands, and change our shoes before entering the school,” she said.

Jeanette Arbelo-Bean, the principal at Chesterbrook Academy Preschool, said the school has sanitizing units around the building to make sure everyone is disinfected.

“We practice social distancing, the children and the staff receive health checks upon entrance, and wash their hands before entering the classroom,” she said. 

Along with the sanitation, there have been changes to the number of children each classroom can sustain. Muci said the school is currently accepting students but with restrictions.

“There are ten people allowed in each space, including teachers. Those are the CDC and DCF recommendations we are following, but we are expecting that to change in the near future,” she said, adding she thinks they will be able to enroll more students soon.

Because of the restrictions, parents are not allowed into the school, so teachers communicate with them throughout the day by sending pictures, videos, and updates. 

“We are very big on communication. We have an app that our parents can download, and they can see all the information about the children. They are able to see the pictures and activities of the day as well as communicate with the teachers,” said Muci. 

Arbelo-Bean said that although parents are not allowed, they connect with them virtually.

“We communicate all of our safety protocols with the families, by phone, email and zoom calls,” she said.

Camp activities for the children have also been altered to prevent congestion, while still being entertaining. 

“We couldn’t do the slip and slide because the kids put their mouths in the water, and they drink the water. They were really disappointed, but we have a big water table and we have them spread out on each side and they are allowed to run in and out as long as they keep their distance,” said Sousa. 

The summer camps have developed a system to ensure safety within their schools by promoting good hygiene practices, social distancing and sanitation procedures that still allow for the children to enjoy their camp. 

“I am really proud of what we are doing. The owners have gone above and beyond with the work they have put in,” said Sousa. 

Indira Morales is a journalism and international relations student at Florida International University with a passion for writing and politics. Indira hopes to become a lawyer and utilize her skills to bring positive change to the nation.