Update on City of Toronto Summer Camps
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to adapt to a new normal. I know that these changes have not been easy, but they have been necessary to protect ourselves and others. Public health advice from our experts has informed every step of our COVID-19 response, including today’s announcement that City of Toronto summer camps cannot safely proceed as originally planned and scheduled.
I also know how important summer camps are to so many families. Summer camps provide positive social interactions, enhance childhood development, and provide young people with jobs and work experience. These programs are especially important for vulnerable kids, who may not be able to access these experiences and opportunities elsewhere.
That’s why City staff have been working around-the-clock to create an alternative program: Camp TO. Camp TO is a modified summer camp program that could operate safely and in line with public health guidelines. The main difference between Camp TO and the City’s regular summer camps is size: Camp TO would have 1 staff leader for every five campers, to permit physical distancing. Program capacity at each site would also be limited.
The City of Toronto is the first municipality in the province to come up with a safe, alternative option for summer camp programming.
Camp TO can only go forward, though, if we are sure that it’s safe to do so. The Ontario Government has to sign-off by amending the province’s emergency order; and Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa must also give her approval, once a number of criteria are met, including a significant and sustained reduction in virus spread in our city. Right now, we aren’t there yet. The coming weeks will provide more information.
If it is determined that Camp TO can proceed, it will have limited space — approximately 44 percent of the usual number of spaces for summer camps will be available. Children age 6 to 12 across the city will be eligible, and a new registration date and sign up will be made available once the Province and Medical Officer of Health have given the go-ahead. City staff have confirmed that once that happens, a four-week period will be necessary to prepare the camps and make sure they are safe before they can begin.
Learning to live with the reality of COVID-19 is challenging, and altered many of our plans for the season ahead. I’m grateful to the dedicated City staff who have managed to come up with a new and innovative approach for how our camps may be able to proceed. I will provide additional updates as soon as they become available.