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COVID-19 fails to stop Oglebay summer camps

Scott McCloskey CAMP FUN — Z.A. DeFranco of St. Clairsville participates in the “Wonderful World of Disney” art camp at Oglebay Institute’s Stifel Fine Art Center on Monday.

WHEELING — Despite navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic and the daily social distancing challenges, Oglebay Institute continues to deliver a variety of quality summer camps for area children.

Whether it’s in visual arts, dance, theater or a nature camp — now just three weeks into their summer season — Oglebay Institute has dozens of area children who participate in daily summer camps between their Stifel Fine Arts Center, Towngate Theater and Schrader Center, according to OI President Danielle Cross McCracken.

“We just had to really be paying close attention to all the regulations and all the changes … and what’s happening with COVID just so we could be responsive with anything we needed to do,” McCracken explained. “So we just have to be adaptable. I think we feel really good about what we are doing. We have received very positive feedback,” she added.

“We’re glad to be back in our happy place again,” one comment a student shared with a parent recently, according to McCracken.

It was in mid-March when Oglebay Institute officials met with their leadership team and made the decision to close public programs due to the on-going pandemic, according to McCracken. She said they were able to reopen all of their facilities to the public on June 1 with all the new safety protocols and capacity limitations in place. While their camps are routinely held from June through August, the summer session was pushed back a month due to the pandemic.

“We made the decision in May that we would cancel the month of June,” McCracken commented. She said she was in regular communication with local and state health officials for guidance on reopening.

“At that time the department of health and human services were not allowing summer camps and we needed to make the decision … so we decided to cancel June (camps) and we moved our more popular camps to July and August with the hopes we would get the ‘OK’ and it would be deemed safe by state and local officials, and in June we did get the green light for summer camps to be offered, “ she added.

She said they officially began offering their summer session of programs and camps on July 6.

“During those months that we were closed, we were actively preparing how to safely open all of our facilities, in terms of cleaning protocols and procedures and things like that, but we were really actively preparing of coarse for the summer camps and how we we’re going to approach that as safely as we could,” McCracken commented.

In addition to doing daily health screenings with the campers, McCracken said Oglebay Institute has implemented a number of new policies and safety procedures since reopening to the public. She said they have limited their camps to smaller groups to limit interaction and to allow for social distancing.

She said their policy requires all of their campers (with the exception of those who might have a medical condition) to wear a mask unless they are social distancing. In addition, they have changed the drop-off and pick-up procedures so that parents and relatives are not getting out of their cars anymore and walking their kids inside the facility.

“We’re trying to limit the number of people that are there at check-in and at pick-up,” she explained. In addition, they are providing individual supplies for each camper so kids are not sharing art supplies and those types of things.

“During the time that we we’re closed we were still pushing content out everyday to keep the community engaged in what we were doing,” McCracken explained. “Every single department was pushing content out through a Facebook page. We did some virtual art classes, some virtual dance sessions. … We just felt a responsibility just to keep people engaged and continue to serve the public even at a time we couldn’t offer typical programs,” she added.

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