Commentary

Nancy Park: Summer reading camp creates a hardship for families

March 18, 2014 

I want to begin by saying that I am not writing to complain about or blame the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools (CHCCS). I am quite sure that responsibility for the issues I am writing about belongs to the North Carolina legislative and executive branches of government.

My godson is a sweet, hard-working and athletic third grader. His dad is a sweet and hard-working single dad. Since Dad works, my godson goes to the CHCCS afterschool program that operates until 6 p.m. each school day. There’s a fee for the program.

In the past he also attended six weeks of summer day camp run by CHCCS. It operates from 7:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. and is a great resource for working parents and an enrichment program for the children. It is an important offset to the other four summer weeks the boy “hangs out” at a relative’s home in Burlington while his dad works.

At his latest parent-teacher conference, his dad learned that his son is not going to pass the tests that will let him move on to fourth grade with a clean slate. Even though he’s made a lot of progress in reading and is doing great in math, he must achieve more and will have to go to Summer Reading Camp.

In addition, he was offered afterschool Read to Achieve tutoring, and his dad signed him up for that. There’s no fee for this program, but since he still needs afterschool his Dad is still paying for it since Read to Achieve is only three days a week and ends at 5 p.m.

As of today (it’ll change we are told) Summer Reading Camp is scheduled to start four days before Summer Camp begins, be half days only (8 a.m. to noon), and end three weeks after summer day camp begins. It will probably be fee-based.

The problems for us with this include:

• How can we plan for the afternoons the four days the Reading Program does not overlap with Summer Day Camp? School system transportation is not going to take my godson to Burlington.

• Is his parent going to be responsible to pay double for the three week overlap – for Reading Camp and Day Camp mornings?

• How will the privacy of the children be protected? It will be very obvious to the other children when some show up at summer day camp after noon each day that they are the children whose reading is not up to par.

• How can families or the Summer Camp managers plan when the current word from the state is that Summer Reading Camp plans that are in place now, such as they are, will probably change in May? Is that going to diminish program quality?

• The state decided a week or so ago to change the standards for the achievement level third-graders must attain to be excused from Summer Reading Camp. As of this writing, we do not know if my godson will or will not be required or permitted to attend. How do we plan? Deposits on summer programs need to be made now and are largely non-refundable.

I am sure other families have their own unique and similar problems with this outrageous child-tossing behavior in Raleigh.

Perhaps rather than Summer Reading Camp for third-graders there should be Summer Thinking and Compassion Camp for State Legislators and Executives.

Nancy Park lives in Chapel Hill.

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