Band site concerns addressed

Parent concerns about bed bugs, heat exhaustion and not enough meals during band camp last year were brought up Tuesday during the Wapakoneta City Schools Board of Education meeting.

Band Director Klayton Hilleary addressed the concerns as he discussed this year’s band camp, planned for the end of July. A parent had written a letter to board members about her concerns and Hilleary said he had the same concerns and began addressing them late last year.

Hilleary said it was the first time in six years of going to Camp Willson, in Bellefontaine, that they had problems. He has since been reassured by camp management that steps have been taken to remedy the concerns.

“If there is any hint of the same issues as last year, we will not return,” Hilleary said of plans to give Camp Willson another try.

School board member Eric McKinniss suggested Hilleary or a band booster make a trip to the facility before camp is scheduled to begin and confirm that the areas of concern have been remedied.

Hilleary said one of the problems with trying to change where the band attends camp this year is a $2,000 deposit, which has already been made.

In a letter written to board members, a mother, who school officials asked not be identified, said hearing the band was returning to Camp Willson for camp was of great concern.

“There were many issues last year, which cost myself and other parents heartache and money,” the parent wrote.

She mentioned bedbug problems that required everything the students brought home to be cleaned before it was brought into their homes and many of the students coming home with bites.

No air conditioning for students also was concerning to the mother, who said chaperones used the air conditioning in their vehicles to cool students.

Her daughter was transported by ambulance to the hospital because of problems she had with the heat, with terrible food that students stopped eating contributing to the problems they experienced with the heat. During at least one meal, there wasn’t enough food for everyone.

“Camp last year was a horrible experience and I certainly hope you would be willing to intervene and stop the band from attending this facility,” the mother wrote in her letter.

Board members made no decision on band camp during Tuesday’s meeting, but Hilleary planned to send a letter home to parents addressing the situation.

In addition to plans, he would explain steps camp management have put in place to remedy situations, Hilleary said after a couple students “dropped” while experiencing heat issues, he planned to be more proactive.

He said students, who best know how they feel would be encouraged to step out and get a drink or rest if needed, and chaperones would be trained in what signs to look for with heat exhaustion.

“We were 10 minutes from getting off the field when things started happening,” Hilleary said. “Things started happening that quick.”

In addition to talking to students and chaperones, Hilleary said a licensed and practicing nurse would be with them at all times and her quarter’s would be air conditioned.

Hilleary said unfortunately it was extremely hot during band camp last year.

“The heat is a major problem for me,” board member Ron Mertz said. “They are minors. We are responsible for them. They can’t say no. We are the adults, the directors, the chaperones. We are the ones there looking out for their welfare.”

Mertz said that with his medical background, he knows what can happen.

Board member Pat Gibson said he agreed with Mertz stressing the importance of getting the students fluids and properly training chaperones.

Mertz said he understood that a scheduling snafu caused students to be on the field during the hottest part of the day, but he again reminded Hilleary of the need to be more careful.

“We have to be diligent,” Mertz said, recommending Camp Willson officials having to guarantee the issues from 2012 will be resolved.

In email correspondence with camp management Hilleary presented to board members, he has been told the camp is undergoing major changes with a new executive director, new summer director and a new properties director. A plan used by the new executive director’s prior camp is to be implemented at Camp Willson to eliminate bedbugs before they come into the camp to become a problem.

During the winter, all cabins were heated to the proper temperature to kill any remaining bedbugs. Chemical pesticides were used as follow-up. Also, as every guest arrives, their luggage, packed in laundry bags not hard side luggage, is to be heated to prevent bedbugs from making their way into cabins.

Management also said meals are to be split during camp this year, to prevent overcrowding, keeping students cooler and get them served faster.