Parents, Students, & Volunteers,
As we prepare for our first-of-its-kind DNow Retreat in March, there are some additional details that I would like to share with you about health and safety measures that we are putting into practice during the retreat. Here are some possible questions that we can address:
1. Are face masks required for the duration of the retreat?
Yes. Although the staff at Camp Copass has had great success in providing safety for guests throughout the months of the pandemic, the first statement on their COVID policy that stood out to me was the statement that reads “Face masks are recommended indoors including the dining hall until guests are seated.” We immediately determined that we are going to upgrade what they are referring to as a recommendation to a REQUIREMENT of all of our participants.
All participants (students & leaders) will be required to wear a mask at all times, with these few exceptions:
- While eating.
- While showering.
- While sleeping.
- While actively participating in an outdoor activity. (Masks will be worn while we are outside, but may be removed when a student is actively participating in a recreation activity).
Masks will remain on during the entirety of our worship and Bible study times (both during the music and the message). The guest speaker and the worship band will not wear masks while they are on stage, but will be far-moved from where any of our students are seated. They will put their masks back on as soon as their stage responsibility is finished.
2. What are the lodging arrangements going to be like?
We are staying in cabins that are similar to the cabin arrangements that we experience at Youth Camp. Camp Copass has already taken steps to minimize the number of spaces available for guests to stay inside their cabins, in accordance with the health and safety protocols laid out by the State of Texas for the safe operation of campgrounds. Even so, we have determined that we will further limit the number of DNow participants who will be staying in each cabin:
- In a cabin which has an adjusted capacity of 36 people, we will assign 18 participants to that cabin.
- Like most campgrounds, the cabins at Camp Copass are bunk-bed style. Although State regulations do not require it, we have determined that we will designate alternate bunks as available spots for sleeping. Each set of bunk beds will only have one occupant: (Bunk 1=top bunk available; Bunk 2=bottom bunk available; Bunk 3=top bunk available; etc.)
- In each of the cabins, there is individual space for bathroom stalls and showering/changing areas. This means that there will be a dividing wall between each of the showering/changing areas.
- Adult leaders in each cabin will be asked to limit the number of people in the bathroom/shower areas only to the number of stalls that are available. If a cabin has a restroom area that has 3 stalls and showers, then only 3 people can be in the restroom at a time. (Not 3 in the showers and 2 brushing their teeth, etc.)
Participants will be required to wear their masks inside the cabins until they are in their own bunk.
3. What are the bus guidelines for social distancing?
- For the bus ride to and from the camp, we are going to distance the riders by having only one student per pair of seats. In case, we have more participants than anticipated, we will ask siblings to share a pair of seats, as well as ask leaders to share a seat with their spouse, if applicable.
- Families also have the option of dropping their students off and picking them up at Camp Copass (8200 E McKinney St, Denton, TX 76208). (The cost for the retreat will remain the same for families who opt to drop off your student.)
4. What are the requirements for the worship and dining areas?
The two main areas where our students will be gathering during the DNow Retreat will be the Worship Auditorium and the Dining Hall. Both of these areas have been prepared for appropriate distancing of a much higher capacity than we will have in attendance:
- The Worship Auditorium has a normal seating capacity of over 1,000. Accommodations for social distancing reduces that capacity to approximately 500. Although we do not have any way of accurately predicting the number of participants we will have in attendance, I cannot foresee us needing capacity for more than 100-120 total people. Even if the attendance number is higher than that, we have room in this 1,000-capacity auditorium to make certain that each participant is properly distanced from other participants. Also, remember that masks will be worn throughout the entirety of our worship times.
- The Dining Hall has a capacity of 600 and is split into two distinct sections/rooms, with a sliding wall in-between. Camp Copass has already taken the steps of reducing the number of diners at a round table to 4 diners at a table originally designed for 8 diners. All meals are served by the Camp Copass staff by filling the plates of diners as they come through the line. As in the case of many of the places where lines form (grocery stores, restaurants, etc.), stickers have been placed on the ground 6-feet apart from each other to mark the distance that each diner needs to remain apart while in line for food. The same practice is in place for people who are dumping their trays after their meal. Masks are to be worn to and from the dining area and while standing in line for your food and discarding your food.
5. Will we be the only group at Camp Copass that weekend (March 5-7)?
- Right now, our group is the only youth group who is scheduled to be on campus during the weekend of March 5-7. The only other group who is scheduled to be at Camp Copass during that weekend is the Staff of Fielder Road Baptist Church in Arlington. Their group is staying in the hotel/motel rooms that are on the campus of Camp Copass, which are separate areas from where our group will be. The retreat that they are having is a Prayer & Fasting Retreat. As silly as it sounds, that means that they will not be using the Dining Hall. (It’s a prayer and FASTING retreat!) There is actually ONE meal that the FRBC staff will be having in the Dining Hall, but they will enter and exit the Dining Hall in a different location from our students.
- I cannot guarantee that this circumstance of our group being the only group on campus will not change, but I am comforted by the thought that we will likely be the only group who is utilizing this campground during that weekend. At this late date, the staff of Camp Copass also tells us that it is unlikely that there would be another group trying to schedule an event for that weekend.
- As of this morning, I spoke with the Retreat Center staff and there are 2 other small groups who will be on campus during our time there. There is an Adult Ladies Retreat that will have a group of about 40 and a small Youth Group of about 15 who will also be there. Neither of these groups are using the Dining Hall or the Auditorium. The Ladies Retreat will have all of their activities (including meals) confined to their cabin and the small Youth Group will be having their meals in their cabin. The Camp Copass staff assures me that the only time in which we might even see people from the other groups is when they are walking around outdoors.
6. Will all DiscipleNow participants be screened for COVID-19 before the retreat?
- Yes. Attached below you will find the form that we will collect from each participant within 48 hours of our departure for Camp Copass. This form has been constructed based on the screening questionnaire issued by the Center for Disease Control and in accordance with the health and safety protocols given by the State of Texas. Each participant will be required to present this signed form within 48 hours of our departure for Camp Copass.
- We will also be taking students’ temperatures at various times throughout the weekend to ensure that no one has developed a fever. Leaders in each cabin will be equipped with a touch-free thermometer to take the temperature of their students as they come to-and-from the cabin. In the event that a participant does present a fever above 99.5, that participant will be isolated in the Nurse’s Office at Camp Copass while observing their condition and consulting with their parents.
I hope that this helps to give a clear picture of the steps that we are taking to give our students the safest experience possible during the DNow Retreat. We are unquestionably in some UNIQUE times that have all of us considering things that we have never considered before. As always, I completely trust parents to make the decisions that are in the best interests of their children, their family, and their community around them. For our students who are able to attend our events in person, I want families to know that we are taking every measure possible to ensure that their child’s safety is the first and foremost priority in what we do. For our students for whom right now is not the right time to join in events in-person, we want to take every step possible to ensure that they feel included and get benefit from virtual participation in the event, as much as possible.
Minister to Students