By staff reports
Something was missing at the Jewish Community Center following its partial reopening this month – kids.
The Health and Wellness Center was again open to adults jonesing for their weight training, aerobics and other classes, but there have been no young people on the campus (at least under 13).
All that began to change on Monday, June 15, when the Early Learning Center (ELC) reopened; Camp J will begin its summer program on June 22. Both programs will wrap up on Aug. 7
“We’re really excited to be reopening, even with all the restrictions,” said ELC Director Jessica Bush. “We are ready to have our kiddos back and to get back towards normalcy.”
Camp Director Mindye Mannel also said she looked forward to getting the campers all together again. “We know our families look forward to this every summer,” she said, “and we are happy we are able to open once again with all safety measures in place.”
But it won’t be business as usual – for ether program.
The ELC will open with 57 kids – the enrollment is expected to climb to 70 by July – using seven of the nine classrooms; the other two will serve as sites for wellness screenings.
Students will have their temperatures checked every morning and their parents will answer a series of questions (have their children had contact with someone known to have the virus, are they eating and sleeping normally). Teachers will undergo the same routine.
There will be no swim time and no morning sing-up. One class at a time will be on the playground, and Friday Shabbat celebrations will be on Facebook Live only.
Teachers of older kids will wear face masks; of the younger ones, face shields.
Stuffed toys, rugs and pillows will be removed from the classrooms. “If you can’t wipe it with a Clorox wipe or sanitize it, it can’t be in the classroom,” Bush said.
Parents must drop their kids off at the outside entrances to the ELC and will not be permitted in the classrooms for now. To compensate, teachers will make weekly phone calls to the parents, updating them on their children’s progress. They also will post photos and – something new – videos to the Facebook page.
Perhaps the saddest change of all, the trolly buggys of toddler children that teachers push down the halls of the JCC (to the delight of members and staff) during better times will go away.
“They’ll still load up that buggy and go outside if it’s a nice day,” Bush said, “but they won’t go through the JCC like they usually would.”
Still, she said the normal classroom routine should be the same, though she expects the kids’ transition from home to class after such a long break to be challenging – something she has discussed with her faculty.
“What is the social and emotional effect on the children and how do we help them come out into the world after being home for so long?” she asked. “It’s a complicated answer. Basically, it’s going to be different for every child, but we have lots of good resources.”
As a result, she’s told her teachers to go easy on behavioral issues. “It’s going to be a huge transition just remembering how to behave at school,” Bush said.
Camp J begins its seven-week season with about 125 campers with each unit accommodating up to 10 kids and two campers.
“We’re filling up fast,” Mannel said.
Every group will have two counselors. The composition of each unit will not change during each week-long session.
“We will be following Healthy at Work Guidelines for childcare centers,” Mannel said. “That will mean very limited space and spots at camp. Obviously, we will be following strict distancing guidelines and sanitation and cleanliness guidelines.”
As in past years, the camp is offering traditional and specialty units to interest the campers, all of which, for now, will be in the old Anshei Sfard building.
There will be no off-camp programs this summer, no morning or afternoon circles, no field trips and no overnights.
“None of that can be done that this year,” Mannel said.
There will be no pool time for the time being. To substitute for the lack of pool time, Mannel hopes to use slip-slide, water balloons — “gosh, anything water-related,” she quipped.
There will be no shlichim (Israeli counselors) or Tzofim (Israeli scouts) on the campus this year, though Mannel believes both groups are working on virtual programs for campers. She will provide more details as they become available.
Despite the scaled back offerings, Mannel believes the campers are ready to emerge from pandemic-induced separation.
“They are ready to get out of the house and are done with screen time and TVs,” she said. “Campers and their families seem more than ready to come back to camp.”
Want to know more?
For more information about Camp J’s units and safety guidelines, contact Mindye Mannel at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit jewishlouisville.org/the-j/camp/ For questions about the Early Learning Center, contact Jessica Bush at email@example.com.