MARBLEHEAD — Heather Gravelese, the co-director of the summer camps at the JCC of the North Shore, is ready for day one, on June 27.
“I think the camp is going to feel more like it was pre-pandemic,” Gravelese said, adding that many COVID-19 protocols remain in place.
The JCC summer camps include both KinderCamp and Camp Simchah. The KinderCamp age range runs from three years old to rising kindergarteners, while Camp Simchah has a longer span, from rising first-graders to rising seventh-graders. There’s also a Leaders-in-Training program for campers in grades 8 through 10. On average, there will be 120 youngsters per week in each camp. The North Shore is well represented, with attendees coming from Marblehead, Swampscott, Lynn, Nahant, Salem, Beverly, Peabody, Wilmington, Danvers and Lynnfield. There are also several international campers this year who are coming from overseas to visit family in the U.S. The camps run through Aug. 26.
Chabad of the North Shore is also offering a summer camp this year. Two other Jewish summer camps – the Eli and Bessie Cohen camps and Camp Bauercrest – did not return inquiries from the Jewish Journal.
At the JCC, Gravelese des-cribed camp families as excited for the season to begin. She is part of a camp family herself, as her children will be attending. As a child, Gravalese went to Camp Simchah when it was located in Middleton instead of Marblehead. Before becoming co-director of the JCC camps with Heather Greenberg two years ago, she ran the aquatic part of the camps.
The pool is central to the camp experience, with each camper participating in daily instructional swimming. There’s also a free swim in the afternoons, which had not been offered in several years.
In addition to aquatics, Camp Simchah offers sports and games, science and nature activities, arts and crafts, music and movement sessions, outdoor adventures, and another daily event, tennis. The KinderCamp program features sports, music, arts and crafts, as well as puppets. Both camps have full inclusion for attendees who have physical or learning disabilities.
The JCC camp leadership program teaches older attendees how to be counselors. It consists of two four-week sessions and pairs participants with adult staffers in learning how to supervise campers.
Although the JCC camps do not require COVID-19 vaccination, attendees are asked to have one on record. Gravelese said the camps are in contact with the Marblehead Board of Health regarding the COVID-19 situation. KinderCamp and Camp Simchah are fully outside, with the exception being for inclement weather.
“It’s worked really well the last few years just being outside and only in the buildings for inclement weather,” Gravelese said.
Although masks are not required inside, they are encouraged in this setting if a family wants a child to wear one.
“We’re always outside and able to socially distance as much as possible,” Gravelese said, noting that the camp also recommends hand-washing and using hand sanitizer.
The camp has made some other COVID-related changes from the past, such as offering extended drop-off for parents in the morning, and establishing a test-to-stay program similar to protocols in elementary, middle and high schools. Under test-to-stay, a camper who tests positive for COVID must go home and follow guidelines from the CDC and local Board of Health, but other campers test for five consecutive days. If they test negative, they can stay.
Gravelese said there has been no problem getting staff this year: “It’s always slow getting staff at both the camps, but it looks like we’ve got an awesome staff.”
She predicted, “This is going to be the best summer yet.”