Skip to content

NBTSC & COVID-19

NBTSC and COVID-19

Dear NBTSC community,

With great sadness, we have canceled our 2020 regular sessions (Oregon and Vermont) due to the pandemic. 

We’re planning the first-ever Virtual NBTSC experience and will post details on our website by early June.

For a deep dive into our communication on this subject, see our 3 community letters below. 

We wish health, abundance, joy, and peace to all.
~
Grace Llewellyn and the NBTSC admin team

___

May 15, 2020

Dear 2020 NBTSC families,

May greetings to you. We hope this email finds you and yours well, happy, safe, and secure. 

We are so very sad to share with you that due to the pandemic, we are not able to run our regular sessions in Oregon and Vermont this year. 

We had fervently hoped things might shift, but at this point it is clear that the essential nature of our gatherings (connected! boisterous! affectionate!) is just not compatible with the social distancing and other requirements for groups – which are now expected to last through the summer. Wearing masks throughout each day, housing just a few campers in each cabin (with many alone in tents, and no communal sleeping area), scratching partner dancing workshops and prom off the schedule, and sitting apart during meals – things like this feel just too dismally contrary to NBTSC’s culture. Even if we did try to press on ahead, it’s likely our sites would not be available to us, or that – regardless of extreme program-tweaking –  our sessions would be unable to meet even minimum legal standards for Oregon or Vermont this year. There is still some uncertainty in these site and state domains but with all signs pointing increasingly in the same direction, we felt it was time to rip off the bandaid and make the decision.  

Our hearts go out to each of you: brand new campers we were eager to meet, final-year campers* we’ve been honored to befriend over time, and everyone in between. We love, love, love being with all of you and we are pretty sure we are at least as disappointed as you are. We know that NBTSC is not the only joy that you’ll be missing out on this year, and we sincerely hope that over these next few months you will find ways to connect safely closer to home with friends in small groups in a way that lifts your spirits and nurtures your soul. We also very, very much hope that you will be with us in 2021. 

*A special note to this year’s Culminati (campers in their final year who have opted for an intentional multi-year path leading up to a final goodbye presentation): you are especially on our minds! We know you’ve been looking forward to your culminating year for a long time – some of you ever since that moment 5 years ago when you were 13 and took your place in our first-night opening circle, looked around, and whispered to yourself, “I am home.” Of course it can’t be the same as what you were expecting, but we promise to find a way to celebrate you this year. Or, we know many folks are postponing or shifting college plans, so if it turns out you can join us in 2021, that’s also a possibility.  (We admit 19+ individuals by application. When such a person wants to be part of NBTSC and is willing to work with our simple guidelines for older campers, we do almost always welcome them.) Also….

Meanwhile, we’re going to stretch into a whole new adventure with the first-ever Virtual NBTSC. In its own way, we think it’s going to be pretty great. Our in-house/out-of-the-box think tank (Matt and Margie Sanderson – session director and logistics goddess) are busy dreaming up this fresh version of NBTSC goodness. Key details (including sliding scale tuition) will be announced by early June. Meanwhile, M&M want you to know:

There’s a lot we’re going to miss about gathering in person this summer, but in planning the first-ever Virtual NBTSC, we’re also thinking about what we can’t do at in-person camp that we will be able to try out this year. Think: home camp cooking lessons, opportunities to hear and learn from NBTSC alumni all over the world, and art and talent shows where you can show off your skills that never made it to camp, from tuba to trapeze. 

Our gathering will also include online adaptations of some of the key NBTSC classics. We’ll have ongoing advisee groups so that (like at camp) you have a place to connect frequently with the same small pod of folks. As always, there will be minimal required activities meant to connect and unite us as a group, and a universe of optional ways to plug in. We intend for this experience to be co-created, so start thinking now! Is there a workshop or activity you might want to lead virtually? Some of the best workshops at every session of NBTSC are camper-led and we hope this year will be no exception!

Refunds and other options

We know that some of you and your families have already been hit hard, financially, by the pandemic (and its repercussions – job loss, medical expenses, etc.), and you will just need all of your tuition back, plain and simple. No problem! We sincerely wish your family a speedy financial recovery and abundance of all kinds. We would appreciate your filling out our form [link disabled] to let us know what you need. This form will help us keep our refund project organized and efficient and to prioritize our actions as needed. You can also communicate with us by phone or email but in that case your request may not get into the hopper as quickly. 

If you have any flexibility in your family’s finances this year, please read on. We have options that can benefit you as well as us. NBTSC, like many summer camps, is now in a very challenging financial situation. We won’t lie: it’s scary for us. We worry. We have already incurred expenses for the usual winter and spring NBTSC planning and prep work (from January onward), and we will have additional expenses throughout 2020 (such as pay for Maya’s minimal but ongoing office work, storage unit rental, etc.).  If you are willing to redirect some or all of your tuition to one or more of the options below, we would be deeply grateful.  When you have an idea of how you might like to proceed, please fill out our form to let us know. 

Be part of Virtual NBTSC 2020!
We’ll share details including (sliding scale) tuition by early June. If your family is open to considering Virtual NBTSC, ideally we would hold onto your tuition for now and then you can let us know in June whether you’d like to join in, and how to direct any remaining funds in your account.  (Of course virtual camp will cost much less than in-real-life camp, but we do intend to both pay virtual-staffers for their work and also offset some of NBTSC’s overhead costs.)  

Exchange your tuition for a 2021 voucher~
Exchange some or all of your 2020 tuition for a 2021 voucher – we see this as another win-win for everyone.

  • Anyone can use the voucher – it doesn’t have to be you or even anyone in your family. You can give, sell, or trade it to someone else. (Before applying it to someone else’s tuition we would double check with you to make sure everything is copacetic.)
  • Vouchers are worth 10% more than what you’ve paid. (If you exchange your $150 deposit for a voucher, it is worth $165 in 2021 tuition.) 
    • But, there is no cash value to a voucher; if you’ve already paid in full and apply that entire amount to a voucher, it will be worth more than next year’s tuition. So, you can apply the excess to someone else’s tuition or roll it over to 2022.
  • If the voucher is used by the same camper or a sibling, you are also guaranteed the same tuition rate as in 2020. (No increase.)  
  • We will also save a space for voucher holders. (Oregon is likely to fill up with a waiting list.)
  • We do need to acknowledge the slight possibility – however infinitesimal – that in 2021 we might still be unable to run sessions due to the pandemic. If this were the case, we would touch base with you then and see if you wanted a 2022 voucher or preferred another option. 

Give to our scholarship fund~
Since 1996, NBTSC has strategized to make camp as affordable and accessible as possible, and we have truly been an economically diverse community from the start. At any given session, roughly 12-25% of our campers have some kind of scholarship. Most scholarships are called “worktrades” because they include a work component, but for the majority of worktraders, this work commitment is minimal. (The largest group is “easy worktraders”: first year campers experiencing financial hardship, who work approximately 1 hour per day in exchange for a 50% tuition discount.) In the long run, NBTSC will continue to prioritize scholarships, because that is who we are. But in the short run – that is, over the next few years – we are concerned about our ability to do so. We may go into 2021 with debt that must take precedence over scholarships and similar offerings. If you would be willing to donate part or all of your tuition to this fund, families with fewer resources will benefit directly. If enough families donate, perhaps we can fully continue our regular scholarship offerings without interruption. These donations are not, unfortunately, tax deductible (we are not a 501(c)3 organization) but we would be happy to later share details with you regarding our use of these funds. (Not, of course, with the names of campers who received scholarships, but with anonymous information.) 

General donation
Of course we also have expenses that come with keeping our organization minimally operational, and this year we can’t count on the normal resources with which to pay them. If you’d like to donate part of all of your tuition toward our general expense fund, we’d be very grateful. 

Again…. we would appreciate your filling out our form [link disabled], to let us know what your family can do, or what you need from us.  

___

Regardless of what you choose, and regardless of whether you join our Virtual NBTSC adventure this year, know that your place in the NBTSC community is solid. Once a part of us, always a part of us. This narrowing of our options WILL pass, and we WILL gather again. Meanwhile we hope you’ll stay in touch with us on facebook, instagram, and by following our blog (we expect posts coming soon from Ariam, Nathen, and more!). We also have another all-campers-welcome zoom call coming up – stay tuned on facebook for that, or let us know if you’d also like an email notification. 

We wish you a bright and beautiful day, and we look eagerly forward to our next time together. 

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

_____

April 30, 2020

Dear NBTSC families and prospective camp families,

We are thinking of you and wishing you a beautiful spring amidst this pandemic which is challenging, stretching, and surprising all of us in unexpected ways. We hope that some of the surprises in your life are delightful – perhaps the stars in your not-so-polluted sky are sparkling a little brighter? We sincerely hope that you and yours are healthy both physically and emotionally. And we hope you are finding your own best ways to connect with others. (Since the last time we posted here, Jeremy and Tori inspired the world with fresh possibilities in this video from Nas Daily.) We miss you! We are sending you a big virtual hug! 

In our last letter (scroll down to see it) we promised to check in during April. We didn’t intend to leave it till the last day of the month, but over the past few weeks it kept seeming that maybe we were just around the corner from receiving some grand new particle of information that might illuminate everything. (We’ve especially been awaiting some allegedly-forthcoming summer camp guidelines from the CDC.) So we waited. No such particle of illumination has yet arrived, but it is high time we touch base!

We still don’t know whether camp will run this August and September. But we are starting to home in on when that decision will be made. We expect to know re Oregon by early-to-mid June, and re Vermont by early-to-mid July. 

Camp Myrtlewood (our Oregon site) plans tentatively to decide about their own summer plans by around Memorial Day, and Farm & Wilderness (our Vermont site) expects to decide about their late summer/fall availability by around late June. Additionally, we expect that over the next month, the CDC will be issuing specific guidelines pertaining to summer camps. Oregon and Vermont state governments also, of course, play a big part in the overall decision. 

In light of this continuing uncertainty, we are changing our payment deadline. Tuition balances are normally due June 1 for both sessions. This year we are pushing them back to June 20 for Oregon, and July 20 for Vermont. We figure it doesn’t make sense for you or for us to deal with final payments before we know whether our sessions will run. 

Other than that, we are still proceeding more or less as usual – getting our various ducks in a row in hopes that we will be able to gather, making some broad contingency plans in case we cannot. We continue to welcome registrations. As of now, our rosters are roughly 80% the size of last April’s, so if camp does happen we expect to be a solid, wonderful community. 

If we are able to run camp this year, we will be in touch specifically about shifts to our normal health-screening and health-support plans. Again, though, we do want to avail ourselves of the most complete and up-to-date information possible. The Association of Camp Nurses and the CDC are currently collaborating on a set of covid-19 related guidelines for summer camps. We look forward to carefully reviewing these once they are available, fine-tuning our own procedures, and then sharing details with you. 

There are no other significant changes on our end since our March post (see below). As before, if we need to cancel a session of camp we will offer a complete tuition refund including deposits. 

You may notice the slight shift in our language here, with the word “offer”. Like pretty much everyone, we are experiencing our own financial concerns. So, good chance that rather than automatically sending refunds we would first touch base. Perhaps some folks would be able and willing to receive 2021 vouchers in lieu of refunds. (These vouchers would be worth a bit more than their current cash value.) Maybe some families could even donate their tuition to our scholarship fund. Of course, we realize that others  – experiencing financial challenges like we are – would not be in a position to opt for anything other than a refund, which we would issue cheerfully and promptly.  

We will be in touch again as soon as we have anything significant to share, or at the latest by the end of May. Meanwhile we are thinking of you with care and fondness, and we welcome you 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

_____

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

Loading...