Micki Skudlarczyk, the owner of the children’s art studio Owl & Bee Clay in Northeast Portland, shut down her business in March. That meant no classes and no birthday parties, which are among her biggest income sources.
But she thinks it’s important to hold summer camps because kids need something to do during the long, hot days.
“I feel like we’re safe,” Skudlarczyk said. “There are sometimes where the kids get too close to each other of course, because they’re kids. They forget. I remind them: ‘OK, guys, lets give each other six feet of space.’ And they have their masks on.”
She said she followed all state and city requirements — including halving the size of the camps, providing a hand-washing station, requiring masks and not sharing tools.
“You know I’ve been really pleasantly surprised with the kids. Like I haven’t had anyone that’s resistant to wearing masks. And [they’ve] been very respectful of each other’s space. And they’re still having fun. They’re joking around,” she said. “There’s much more order in the classroom. Which is kind of nice.”
Many summer camps in Oregon shut down rather than try to comply with state guidelines, but Owl & Bee needs the business to survive.
She charges $225 for five three-hour camps over the workweek, but her income is still down 75%. Her landlord has given her a break, and she’s hopeful she can hold out until spring.
“I’m just kind of hanging tight, because I just want to see what happens,” Skudlarczyk said. “I’m honestly surprised that they haven’t halted things, just because cases are on the rise, you know.”
She said one parent told her she should not be open, but the others seem fine as long as she follows protocols.
But Joe Fahlman, the director of the Trout Creek Bible Camp in Corbett, said his camp followed protocols and still had an outbreak.
“When each car would arrive we would ask them health screening questions and take a temperature check of the camper,” he said. “Staff were all wearing masks as we interacted with the parents in the cars. The kids were then put into a stable cohort for the week.”
That cohort was like their family and it usually had no more than seven people. Still, at least 25 people connected to the camp tested positive.
“Then we kept social distancing. We sanitized the camp,” he said.
So does he think there was anything that could have been done to stop the outbreak?
“Probably, maybe, you know. Hindsight is 20/20. But I feel like we did due diligence and we were safe and took the precautions,” he said.
“You know I think it’s just out there. It’s everyday people are interacting in the grocery stores and out in public. So we’re pretty comfortable with the measures we took.”
Back at Owl & Bee Clay, stay-at-home mom Sarah Osburg said she felt very comfortable dropping off her 7-year-old daughter.
“We love Owl & Bee,” she said. “[Our daughter has] been going to camps and classes here since last year, and they’re someone we really want to keep in the neighborhood.
“She really needed a break too. She’s been excited in a way I haven’t seen her in a long time. Picking out her clothes.”
Student Rosie Sheffield-Smith also said she felt safe: “My mom always says [I] do perfect on mask-wearing.”
The governor’s office issued a statement saying it changed guidelines recently to require campers wear masks, but that there’s risk in any setting where people interact for extended periods of time.
It’s also reviewing recent camp outbreaks with the Oregon Health Authority to see if any other changes are needed.