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Here's what parents need to know about summer camp 2021

Summer camps are back this year, with new protocols in place. Before you confirm a spot for your child, here are a few things to keep in mind.

DALLAS — Parents are about to face a truly frightening question: What the heck do we do with these kids all summer?

"I was absolutely nervous that we would not get a spot in summer camp or any camp for that matter," said Melissa Valdez.

Last year, Valdez signed her son up for his first overnight camp.

"And then COVID hits, quarantine hits and turned our world upside down," Valdez said. 

She ended up pulling the plug on Jake’s plan.

"And he was very, very disappointed," she said. 

Fast forward a year and we have a vaccine, a bit more clarity – but Valdez and other parents now have different questions.

"Would they be able to interact with other kids? Will they have to wear a mask?" Valdez asked. "What does happen if one of the kids becomes sick?"

"We learned a lot about managing our groups in a different way," said Neil Rosenbaum, District Executive Director of Camping Services at YMCA of Metropolitan Dallas. 

Kids will not have to wear a mask outdoors at YMCA camps – only inside if they can’t social distance.

Rosenbaum said camp counselors were wiping down every bow and arrow last year.

"What we have found out since last summer, that may not be as necessary for the coming summer," he said. 

When asked how hard camps were hit, Rosenbaum said it was pretty bad.  

"I can’t even begin to count the number of camps across the country that have gone out of business due to the pandemic," he said. 

Rosenbaum said this year, parents will find spaces somewhat limited.

"We will not overfill our programs. We won’t do like the bars and fill it to the gills, just for the sake of it," he said. "So it might be fewer spots this year, and we think they’re gonna fill up fast."

RELATED: State of Texas to offer rapid COVID-19 testing program for youth summer camps

Peggy Chang, co-founded activityhero.com, to help parents navigate their options.

"Every year when summer approaches as it is now, we’d be faced with this idea of, how do you fill eight weeks of camp? And it’s a multiplier factor when you have more than one kid," Chang said.

ActivityHero is expanding into North Texas which will allow parents to search by age and individual interests.

"Even if you have a specific week that you’re looking for, a lot of times the camps in August are the hardest to find, so you can search by dates on our website," Chang said.

Before you confirm a spot for summer camp, keep a few things in mind:

  • Check the safety protocol. You want to make sure the camp is serious about washing hands, sanitizer, and wearing masks if the kids are going to be inside. 
  • Read the fine print. Double-check the camp’s cancellation and refund policy, on the off chance someone gets sick or your situation changes. 
  • Expect some form of screening. Some camps may require testing or quarantine before coming in.

And remind the kids – none of this is all that new.

"I think being prepared from having to do that in school made him realize that, 'It’s OK and I’m still going to have fun,'" Valdez said.  

So yeah, Valdez did snag a spot, and Jake will be going to his first overnight camp this year. 

"I mean, he’s just beyond excited," she said. 

And after the year we’ve had, that’s music to any mom’s ears.