DANVILLE, Ill. (WCIA) — Over the summer months, some Boys and Girls Clubs locations in central Illinois would normally host up to 200 kids for their summer programs.
However, these organizations may have to cut down their program’s capacity by at least half because of COVID-related safety precautions. That’s if they’re even allowed to open at all for the summer.
Rob Gifford, Executive Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Danville, said Tuesday they may have the opportunity to open their doors for a shortened summer program by the end of Phase III of Governor’s JB Pritzker’s ‘Restore Illinois’ plan; it would span six weeks instead of the usual 10.
“Anticipation right now is that even if we’re allowed to open up our doors to kids,” Gifford said, “those group sizes will continue to be no more than 10.”
He said their Danville facility is a 22,000 sq. ft. building that can be divided up into eight different programming areas, each hosting groups of 10. Each group would have eight kids and two staff, Gifford said, and that would allow them to have up to about 64 kids for their summer program.
“Safety is our number one priority,” he said “With two staff, that way we have kids and staff together.”
Sam Banks, Executive Director of the Don Moyer Boys and Girls Club, which serves the Champaign-Urbana and Rantoul communities, confirmed to WCIA they would be on the same page as Danville in regards to group sizes.
“We’ll go from having 15 kids in a group to eight kids,” Banks said, “just about cut in half our numbers.” He said they typically serve about 150-200 in their summer camp. This year, that number would range from 80-90.
Banks and Gifford both said they would conduct daily temperature checks on children and staff in their summer programs.
“Our kids will also have conversations with us throughout the day as far as how they’re feeling,” Banks added.
“All those procedures such as that will be in place,” he said. “As far as inside the building, when parents drop off kids, they will only be at the front desk, and they won’t be able to access portions of the building other than those areas.”
Banks said if they reach Phase II, they would plan to start their summer program in mid-June.
In their gymnasium, he said they would be using partitions to separate their groups for some activities. “It will be physical activities that call for no close contact,” Banks said.
He said Tuesday their staff members were putting together plans to develop activities that allow for social distancing. In their classrooms, he said desks and workstations will be placed six feet apart.
“We’ll also, weather permitting, focus on outdoor activities,” Banks said “With the virus situation, with what it is, the outdoors provides a safer environment for group activities. So as much as possible, we will be using outdoor activities.
“We may have races, but the races will be four at a time, six feet apart. If we have some activities like capture-the-flag, it will be kids going out individually. When one kid comes back, we’ll have another go out. In the past, we might of had four or five kids running around in the same space.”
In Danville, Gifford said they would have a full day of programming in each of their eight group areas. The kids would stay in that area for the whole day—he added they will have lunch and snacks brought to them. For the following day, the group would rotate to a different area.
“Just for instance,” Gifford said, “we have an art room, a game room, a gymnasium, and a computer lab. We have team lounge. Those groups would stay in those areas for one day and then the next day rotate into another area so they all have an opportunity to participate in the different areas throughout the club.”
He said normally they were able to move their kids throughout the club at any different time. Gifford also said they have to plan activities that are easy to clean up after they’re finished.
“If we have them divided into eight areas, we have to have enough laptops that are easy to clean,” he said.
They’ve also planned for the possibility a child or staff member could become sick.
“They would have designated area to move them to,” he said “That might also mean at any given time calling families up and saying, ‘hey listen, we’ve had a incident with a sickness right now.’ We’re going to possibly be closed down a day or two to make sure that we clean and disinfect all areas, even better than we would normally do before we would let kids back in.”
Gifford said he thinks communication with the families of their kids has always been a key for them, even before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It’s important for us to stay closely in touch with families just as much as it’s important for them to keep in touch with us,” he said. “If they have a child that is sick at home, we want them to communicate with us, because we don’t want to put other people at risk and bring a sick child and not say something about it.”