Summit School District closing day camps program
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Terra Long and her husband, Ben, had already been planning to send their two children to Minnesota this summer to visit her parents. But after they learned that the school district-run Summit Day Camps program – which they rely on for after-school and summer care for their kids – will be shut down on June 2, they extended the children’s stay because they have no one else to watch them.
“The first thing my husband said was, ‘We’re going to have to move,'” Long said.
With no family in the area, and a limited budget, Long said the day camps program was their only viable choice for child care. The family lives in Silverthorne, but both Long and her husband work in Frisco. Their children go to Summit Cove Elementary, and have attended the camps program there for four years.
“It’s really the only affordable option we’ve been able to find,” she said.
The Summit School District sent out a letter last week to families who use the camps, stating declining attendance levels and continued funding challenges have caused the board to cut the program, effective at the end of this school year. Day camps at Frisco Elementary, Silverthorne Elementary and Summit Cove Elementary will all close. The program included before-school, after-school, and summer care. Camps at Dillon Valley and Upper Blue elementaries closed in the last few years for the same reasons.
Long said her family doesn’t know what they’re going to do yet. She mentioned the possibility of transferring her 7- and 9-year-olds to Silverthorne Elementary, and sending them home on the bus, but they would be alone for a few hours before she and her husband could get home from work.
“I just don’t know, I’m in a state of shock,” she said.
Julie McCluskie, climate and communications coordinator for the school district, said the schools have seen a 17 percent decline in day camps enrollment since the 2008 school year. She said there are anywhere from 23-53 kids enrolled in the programs at any given school, but on average, only two to seven show up for the before-school camp, and five to seven for the after-school. She said both programs need 15 children a day to sustain themselves.
“That low enrollment certainly makes it difficult to run a day camp program,” McCluskie said. “It’s always difficult and challenging for us to make decisions to eliminate a program or a service like this, even when a small group of families are impacted.”
Long said while she’s noticed attendance has been dwindling at the after-school programs, there always seemed to be high numbers of children utilizing the summer program.
“There’s still a need for it,” she said. “There was no indication from the school district the program was in jeopardy.”
McCluskie said the day camp program has been a good additional service for families, but it is not part of the district’s primary purpose: educating Summit County children. She said the day camp program is projected to lose about $7,000 this year, based on attendance levels and expenditures like transportation and supplies. The program is funded through tuition, charged on a daily basis.
“We really feel our families are making other choices for child care before and after school,” she said.
McCluskie said day camp providers have told her tough economic times have impacted families, forcing them to look for no-cost alternatives; like neighborhood families who split care, or parents who shift schedules around so one parent is home in the morning, and one in the afternoon. The before-school program costs $7 a day. After-school costs $15 on Monday and $11 Tuesday through Fridays.
Karen Harsch has two children aged 8 and 10, and has been using the camps for five years. She said her husband both work full-time jobs, as do many other families in Summit County.
“Honestly, I don’t know what a lot of working families are going to do,” she said. “It’s definitely going to tax my family.”
Harsch said her husband – who works in real estate – has a more flexible schedule, and might have to shorten his work days.
“But parents that are not self-employed … I don’t know what they’re going to do,” she said.
Harsch said she wonders what kind of effect the camps’ closure will have on employers, who might have to be more flexible with parents who need to pick up their children. At her work, she said she knows 12 to 15 families who will be affected.
McCluskie said there are other day care options available to families within the community. She said all of the schools provide communications tables with information about different youth services, day camps and day cares available to families; and list numerous options on http://summitcares.org/. She said day camp providers are currently compiling lists for families.
Harsch wonders if other alternatives will be able to absorb the students.
“Other options are going to fill up quickly,” she said.
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