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March 20, 2020

Dear NBTSC families and prospective camp families,

Warm greetings to you in this challenging time! We hope that you and all whom you love are safe and well in every way. Good chance that you, like those of us who run NBTSC, are practicing extreme social distancing, and we know this can be really hard. (We know because it’s really hard for us!) We hope you’re finding meaningful, nourishing ways to stay connected with others whether through outdoor walks, video chats, or – inspired by those inspiring Italians – making music from your porch or windows that rings throughout your neighborhood.

We are here today to state the obvious: COVID-19 could significantly impact NBTSC this year. Every day the news brings a new development or a new perspective, and it’s too soon for us to know what that impact will be. It is, sadly, possible that we’ll have to cancel either our Oregon or Vermont session – maybe even both. Or, by the time August (and September) comes we may be able to gather. That is certainly our hope. (And we may feel that more than ever we need to gather, to savor and celebrate life and community together!) In some ways NBTSC prides itself on being different and inventing our own way to do things (like unschoolers do!), but in this matter we expect to take our cues from CDC and WHO guidelines and from other experts, as well as from those government leaders who are issuing well-informed requests or requirements regarding gatherings.

If we are able to gather, there will be a few changes intended to support a healthy experience for all. Our health team will most likely include an extra staffer at each session. Our pre-camp and start-of-camp screening processes will be more elaborate, as will our during-camp health-support systems. (We’re paying close attention to what other summer camps are planning in this regard.) We’ll step up the frequency and extent of our cleaning/sanitizing rituals and issue more specific and frequent reminders regarding personal hygiene. While our normal kitchen practices are already lovingly and meticulously care-full, we’ll review those, too, with an eye to overall camp health. And good chance we will (temporarily) re-design some of our activities to focus more on connection that doesn’t involve physical touch. (More invitations to make eye contact, fewer invitations to hug each other.)

So, practically speaking, at this time we have no firm news or announcements, but we are carefully watching the situation as it continues to unfold, and will post here on this page when there are new developments or decisions that impact NBTSC 2020. At minimum you can expect an update in April, another one in May, and after that probably more frequent updates.

We know some folks are concerned about refunds. Our regular refund policy does remain in effect, and among other things, it states that if we need to cancel a session of camp then we are committed to returning all tuition. We drafted this policy with the intention to be fair to everyone, and with all kinds of possibilities in mind.* We recognize that this year will be financially painful for many families, possibly devastating for some. And it is always true that whenever a family requests a refund outside of our normal policy, we look carefully at our options, consider the situation, and do what we can. This will also be true in 2020. And yet NBTSC, too, may be in a very vulnerable financial position this year. So – as always, we will do what we can to accommodate everyone’s needs, but “what we can” do may have limits.

*After all, we’ve been through 9/11 (we were in session  – it was the last full day of camp in Oregon). We’ve been through the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. (Farm & Wilderness closed in 2011, but Matt and Sarabeth were on the phone until they found us an available site in New Hampshire.) We’ve been through H1N1. (That year – 2009 – was when we instituted our current health screening practices, and we were grateful to be blessed with a radiantly healthy camp season.) And we’ve been through gradually-worsening-over-the-years smoke from forest fires near Medford, Oregon. (That’s why we no longer, sadly, run a session of camp in that gorgeous locale.)

This was not how we had hoped to celebrate our 25th year. And yet, here we are. Along with the rest of the world, as a community we will get through this. We have no doubt that in some ways, over the long run, this challenge will help our community to grow stronger – more interdependent and more connected. 

Regardless of what happens with the main thing – actual camp – there are lots of ways we’ll be in touch throughout the year. We’ll still be blogging frequently in celebration of our 25th year. (We welcome comments! Feel free to engage.) We’ll still be posting on facebook and instagram from time to time. We hope that at least in a small way, these posts catalyze happy thoughts and memories. We’re also dreaming up some more interactive ways to connect with all y’all online.  Please feel free to reach out at any time with thoughts or concerns.

Sincerely Yours,

Your NBTSC admin team: Grace Llewellyn, Matt Sanderson, Maya Toccata, Margie Sanderson, and Evan Wright