Some parents in Keller are demanding transparency from a local church after some students came home from camp and tested positive for the coronavirus. Meanwhile, other parents believe the church has done enough to communicate with the public.
Keystone Church said in a statement it notified parents when it learned a camper was exposed to the virus and said it's following state and federal guidelines.
Student Camp 2020 took place July 6-10 at Latham Springs Camp in Aquilla, Texas.
Stephanie Brady's 17-year-old daughter has attended camp for the last five years. It's the highlight of the summer and given the pandemic, her daughter was looking forward to a sense of normalcy.
Brady said there was a discussion about whether or not to go but ultimately felt comfortable sending her daughter after multiple correspondences with the church, parent Zoom meetings and reading the handbook outlining what the church planned to do to make sure students and staff were safe.
“So I start watching the photos come through, no masks, sometimes masks and it just looked really unnerving to see this happen," Brady said. "So I reached out to them again during camp, I texted them both again (people affiliated with the camp), and they’re like, ‘No everything is fine, we’re taking temperatures every day, all is good.'"
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Photos and videos which have since been removed from social media as of Sunday evening. The church said in an email, 'By request, and to protect the privacy and safety of campers of Keystone Church, we have removed all photos and videos from summer camp."
Brady said the camp sent an email during the week of camp to notify parents that a student was sent home early on Monday July 6, the day camp started, after learning the student had been exposed to COVID-19 through a relative. Two days later, they found out that camper had also tested positive for the virus and sent out an email.
When Brady's daughter arrived home on July 10, she said she placed her daughter into quarantine and she's been stuck in her room since after testing positive for COVID-19.
"She was at camp for about three-and-a-half days and now we’re about three weeks invested to try to get through this to get her feeling better and test negative after three weeks of quarantine," Brady said.
Her daughter was tested for the coronavirus three days after she arrived home and received the positive test results four days later.
“I guess because she’s young and she’s an athlete, she has done pretty well up until yesterday and she started with no appetite and really nauseous, so I think we’re getting into the phase where she’s not feeling great right now," Brady said.
She is still concerned after she learned her daughter's best friend, who attended the camp, ended up in the emergency room after having trouble breathing.
Brady said she knows people will ask, "Why did you send her to camp?" but she said she truly felt her daughter would be okay.
“Yes I will take some responsibility, every day I think, 'I really wish I would have put my foot down, I really wish I would have not sent her,'" Brady said. "But I really had faith that the church would do the right thing.”
She doesn't believe social distancing was enforced.
“You would have hoped that everybody would have at least kept masks on, but in so many of the pictures, there were no masks. They considered their small groups 40, which was how many in her cabin," Brady said.
Keystone Church released the followings statement Sunday.
"Keystone Church takes seriously the physical, spiritual and emotional health of our community and those that call Keystone Church their home. Keystone Church, along with other churches and local nonprofit camp organizations, held summer camp. If any camper was possibly exposed, the parents or guardians of the exposed camper were immediately notified under the guidelines of The Texas State Health Department and the CDC. Keystone Church has always and will continue to pray for, invest in and serve our community."
Brady said she believed the church mishandled the situation and wished they would not have waited to notify the community. She said she found out that others were going through the same situation through a friend who saw another parent post about it on Facebook.
“To me, it’s the onus of the church to go out and say, 'Hey, we had this camp, we want to let you know that we’ve had quite a few students who have tested positive and we want to let everybody know and want the community to be aware of it." To me, that’s the responsibility that they should have taken," Brady said.
“The biggest thing is I wish they would have told the community now. You just released 300 kids into Keller, South Lake and other community churches and maybe some kids don’t’ talk to their kids like my daughter does and they didn’t tell their parents that several other students tested positive for the virus," Brady said.
A spokesperson for Tarrant County Public Health said the Texas Department of State Health Services was aware of the positive cases from the recent youth summer camp. The county said the state was working to get names and contact information to reach out to people who may be ill. Tarrant County Public Health said it was also contacting church officials in Keller.
There are other parents who disagree and believe the church did everything right.
"I feel like Keystone did everything that they could possibly do to first of all give the kids and adults there a safe camping experience and I feel like they’ve been forthright as much as they needed to be on the cases that have been reported since camp," said Amy Jackson who also sent her daughter to camp.
She said it was a discussion she and her family deliberated about before sending her 15-year-old off to the overnight-camp.
Jackson said she attended the parent meetings and felt that the church did what they needed to do.
“At the end of the day, these kids are junior high and high school kids and again, risk versus reward, and at some point if the parents were super uncomfortable with sending their kids because this virus was hanging around that we all know is hanging around, then they shouldn’t have sent their kids to camp," Jackson expressed.
She said there was a point several weeks before camp that the church had offered refunds to those who did not want their kids to go to camp due to the pandemic.
"We knew going into it that there's a risk and we did it any way, I would probably make the same decision over again and I feel like the church did everything in their power to keep things as safe as possible while our kids were there," said Jackson.