Dear members and friends,
The recent surge in COVID-19 cases has led to many changing and sometimes confusing state, county, and school announcements. We are hearing more questions from families and troop and service unit volunteers about in-person Girl Scout activities (including troop and service unit meetings, events and/or travel), especially:
- May GSNorCal troops and service units meet in person?
- Other organizations are meeting in person, why can't Girl Scouts?
- What needs to happen before GSNorCal will allow troops and service units to meet for in person activities?
- What can Girl Scouts do now?
- What are the consequences for troops that choose to ignore GSNorCal's restrictions on in-person activities?
Here are our current answers to these frequently asked questions. I welcome your input and suggestions:
May GSNorCal troops and service units meet in person?
NOT YET. At this time, our rule remains: NO in-person troop or service unit activities. Girl Scout households may meet for outdoor Girl Scout activities, provided the household follows all GSNorCal COVID-19 guidelines. The key is that households are staying together.
Other organizations are meeting in person, why can’t Girl Scouts?
At this point in the summer, our priority is to do the right thing so that as many kids as possible are able to return to in-person school. The key to re-opening schools, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, is to practice social distancing to lower the transmission rate in the community: "What I want people to know is the biggest determinant of whether or not we can go back to school actually has little to nothing to do with the actual schools—it's your background transmission rate." — U.S Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams, CBS This Morning, July 21, 2020.
The more we engage in social interaction outside our households or social cohorts, the more risk we create of community transmission. We think it is important to first make sure our girls can safely return to school, and we don't want Girl Scouts to be a source of additional social interaction and risk of background transmission. This is consistent with our mission, to build girls of courage, confidence and character who make the world a better place and our Girl Scout Way: to leave a place better than you found it. In Girl Scouts, we do the right thing, even when others might not.
What needs to happen before GSNorCal will allow troops and service units to meet for in person activities?
The state monitors COVID-19 in each county and maintains a Monitoring List. As of Friday, July 17, the state ordered all counties on the Monitoring List to switch to virtual school only. GSNorCal will use the state Monitoring List and county authorizations for school re-opening as the first step in determining whether in-person troop and service unit activities may resume.
- If your county is not on the state Monitoring List, then once schools in your county have opened for in-person learning and have demonstrated that they can safely remain open for in-person learning for at least two weeks, GSNorCal will permit in-person troop and service unit meetings, activities and trips in your county so long as the volunteer confirms that their proposed meeting, activity, or trip complies with all other state and county requirements as explained in the GSNorCal COVID-19 Guidelines.
- If your county is on (or is moved to) the state Monitoring List, NO in person troop or service unit activities or travel are permitted. In-person Girl Scout meetings, activities, and trips in these counties will only be permitted once your county is removed from the state Monitoring List and your county schools have demonstrated that they can safely remain open for in-person learning for at least 2 weeks.
You can track your county’s progress on the state Monitoring List here.
During the past several weeks as COVID-19 cases have surged in California, counties are being added to the Monitoring List. The Monitoring List map is from July 22, 2020 and Butte County appeared on the Monitoring List for the first time July 22. This why we must remain alert and flexible.
What can Girl Scouts do now?
- You may participate in Girl Scout activities as households: You may plan family days at parks and other outdoor areas with safety protocols in place, just as GSNorCal is doing for Family Days at Camp. Check here for guidance on safely enjoying parks and outdoor spaces as a family.
- You may participate in online programs and other hands-on and self-guided activities: This includes GSNorCal’s Summer of Sisterhood, Tajar’s Treehouse, and all the other online activities and resources available through GSNorCal and GSUSA.
- You may connect via video conference: I know how much we all miss getting together in person, but video chat can help us all stay connected and support each other without risking our community health. Remember, Zoom is free for up to 40 minutes. You can learn more about virtual platforms for troops here: and/or attend one of our troop leader virtual meeting training sessions. Upcoming trainings are August 8 and August 20.
- Girls can get started on Silver and Gold Award Projects: We’ve seen a big increase in middle and high school Girl Scouts who are getting a jump start on their award projects. Get started here.
- You may begin planning ahead for your post-COVID troop trip or high-adventure activities: Start by submitting a Trip or High-Adventure Approval Form. By the time you can participate in your adventure, all the details will already be taken care of.
What are the consequences for troops that choose to ignore GSNorCal's activity restrictions?
Unfortunately, we have heard about volunteers who disagree with and plan to ignore GSNorCal’s COVID-19 activity restrictions. I hope that our volunteers will be able to convince each other to do the right thing for your local schools and postpone in person activities. If that does not work, and our staff learns of in-person activities where such activities are not allowed:
- Our staff will assume the volunteer(s) and troop did not know and will educate them.
- If, with knowledge that in-person activities are not permitted, the troop goes ahead with the activity, then the troop volunteers and families should be aware, this is not an authorized Girl Scout activity, and Girl Scout troop funds may not be used to pay for the activity. In addition, GSNorCal will, at a minimum:
- Suspend or remove the troop volunteer(s) from their volunteer position(s), at least until in-person activities are again permitted for that troop, and possibly permanently.
- Give the troop the option to disband, and we will work with the troop according to our current guidelines so that the girls in the troop may decide how to distribute any remaining troop funds. Under this circumstance, the leader(s) of the disbanded troop, will not be permitted to serve as a GSNorCal volunteer(s). If the troop disbands, we will work with the girls and their families who want to stay in Girl Scouts to create a new troop or to find open troop spots.
GSNorCal troops and service units are meeting virtually to try to help stop community spread, get all kids back to school, get local businesses re-opened, and keep the most vulnerable among us safe.
We can do this, and we can and should step up as role-models for our girls and our communities by putting our communities and schools first and doing the right thing.
If you have comments or questions about this approach, please direct them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your support (and feedback).
Marina H. Park, CEO
Girl Scouts of Northern California