Schools are officially closed until June, but what happens to Summer Camps and Programs?

Updated: Apr. 20, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT
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SARASOTA, Fla. (WWSB) - Governor Ron DeSantis announced on Saturday that all school buildings in the state would remain closed through the end of the academic year. Suncoast schools will continue distance learning until their last days – which is May 28th for Manatee County and May 29th for Sarasota County schools. What happens come June, though?

Right now, most parents are still working from home, but if the economy does open up as scheduled on May 1st, working parents would only have to figure out care for their kids for about a month. However, if the stay-at-home order gets extended through the summer, working parents will have a whole other process to navigate.

“There are risks either way you look at it. I think it’s really important to get the economy going and get everyone back to work, and also get our kids in an environment that they’re with their peers and academically flourishing. However, I also think the human health component is really important, and there’s a lot of things to consider,” Bridget Ziegler, Sarasota County School Board member and mother, explained.

As events continue being canceled for this summer because of COVID-19, Sarasota County officials are cautiously making plans on what they’ll do about summer camp starting this June, but also saying that plans could change at any time.

“How do they hire staff not knowing if there will be a program? What spaces will be available if schools or other buildings are closed? This will play out over the next few weeks, but it could also be played out in other ways we may not know,” Matthew Boulay, the Founder of The National Summer Learning Association, said.

Most sign-ups have been delayed as summer camps wait to see what new guidelines are provided by the health department. For example, even if these programs will be allowed to open, how many students can they have in person?

“I’m anticipating that they’re not going to be open. It is hard in that aspect because you do want kids to be kids, but at the same time, as a parent, you also want them to be safe so you understand why,” expressed Marie McKilligin, a mother of four in North Port.

While many parents are uneasy about this uncertainty, one local family says they are happy to see them taking these extreme precautions. The Wolf family saw how this virus works first-hand after a vacation on a cruise this spring break. All the adults of the family tested positive and fell ill, but their 9-year-old daughter was asymptomatic.

“I wouldn’t have understood how sick you could get and how easily it could be passed and things like that,” Tina Wolf explained.

However, what happens to those kids who have working parents that depend on these programs every summer?

“We’re going to see a lot of innovation and creativity on the upside, and struggle on the downside. If the kids are alone or even if they’re home all summer with someone with them, outreach to this students’ home is the first step to supporting them,” explained Boulay.

Sarasota and Manatee Counties say they are planning to create a plan for summer camps in the next couple of weeks, as that hopeful May 1st lift of the stay-at-home order is expected.

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