Gilbert Public Schools’ annual summer camp program kicked off last Tuesday at five high school campuses with children arriving to find safety protocols in place.

Summer camp includes three programs – the Very Important Kids program for children entering first grade through sixth grade in the fall; the Building Blocks preschool program and The Zone program for 11-14 year olds.

“We had students back on our campuses today, which was exciting for us,” Jared Ryan, Community Education director told the Governing Board last week. “We opened the campuses knowing the numbers would be smaller than normal years.”

Ryan briefed the board on CDC-recommended modifications made to ensure the safety of children and staff from COVID-19.

Some of the program’s adjustments include social distancing, curbside drop-off and pick-up and a maximum of 220 campers within each location with nine students to a room.

All employees must do a temperature check before shift and wear masks throughout the day while parents need to take the temperature of their children each morning and verify via screening questions. 

Additionally, a nurse or health assistance is assigned to each campus and all field trips are virtual with children remaining on the campuses.

Ryan said the hours also were adjusted from the normal 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. to 7 a.m.-4 p.m. in order to minimize the number of staff needed on site.

 Deep cleaning and sanitation will take place every evening and cleaning in general will be throughout the day.

He said effort is being made to ensure interaction is limited among students and staff. A student assigned to a group of nine will stay with that group and the same instructor through the summer, he added.

 If any student or staff member were to become sick, the area they were in is locked down and sanitized and immediate notification is sent to families, according to Ryan, who added they have come up with responses to various scenarios that may arise.

“In all honesty, I think it’s a great first step toward the potential re-opening of our schools,” Ryan said. “I think we are learning a tremendous amount, however, on a smaller scale what our responses are going to be, what our support and communication are going to be for our families.

“And so I think it has really helped us take that fist step toward re-introducing all our students to our campuses and staff members to our campuses and discovering best practices along the way.”

The district also is combining the summer camps with elementary summer school. 

Students are able to complete up to three online school courses while participating in the camps before and after assigned coursework. There will be a facilitator assigned to a small group to support students though their coursework.

Parents wanted their kids to have access to summer school but they also needed day care, so this was a solution for them, Ryan told the board.