Summer program doesn’t feel like school

Summer program doesn’t feel like school

With summer just around the corner, Whitehall Elementary School principal Judy Gould has been getting the last bits of planning in place for the Summer Maintenance Program for second to fourth graders. The program is normally held at the school, but this summer attendees will be seeing a venue change, and the program has a sponsor.

“The Glens Falls YMCA has sponsored our summer programming, which we typically have on the elementary campus. We’ve done it for three summers. We didn’t do it last summer, and it occurs through the generosity of a donor,” she said.

The program would typically be described as summer school in other school districts, but this program is a little different. Rather than sitting at a desk all day and having to continue going to school during their summer break, students are educated, but the program also offers fun for them.

“We kind of have an academic morning, and then it’s more of a day camp experience during the afternoon,” Gould said.

The program is offered to students on an invitation basis. Because it is fun and laid-back, students don’t notice the fact that it’s educational, too.

“One of my favorite moments when I was working the summer camp here at the elementary school, a little boy came up to me and said, ‘You know, Mrs. Gould, I’m going to go to summer school. My mom says I’m going to go to summer school and I don’t know when it starts,’ and I’m thinking you’re already here buddy, this is what Mom was talking about,” she laughed.

“Pre-COVID, it typically would have a field trip component. But because we’re so limited with transportation and not knowing what all the regulations are, we won’t necessarily have that component, but Fridays will feel more like a total day camp experience,” Gould said.

Due to COVID, the program will be following CDC guidelines. The capacity of students also will max out at 50.

“Because we’ll be the Y at the Rec, the Rec won’t be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. during those six weeks. So, we will be able to follow the summer camp guidelines because we won’t be mixing with the general public,” Gould said.

The program offers students the opportunity to expand their education over the summer and gear up for the coming school year. That being said, with the program being invitation only, only certain children are eligible to participate.

“It’s not like a regular Y program where kids sign up. It’s targeted to a population of students who are really kind of like our summer maintenance kids. They are the folks who could really enjoy a summer experience and who might not have access otherwise,” she said.

Kids who are invited to the program sometimes don’t have transportation to the program, which is where the district steps in to help. If a child needs a ride to the program, transportation will be offered by the district. Normally with the field trip component to the program, the district also would offer transportation for those trips.

“It’s a collaborative effort between the district and the YMCA. It’s a Y program that we manage, and we end up providing the staff for it, and we supplement pieces and parts that the Y can’t afford or doesn’t provide,” she said.

The program will run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. for students who are invited, with breakfast and lunch provided by the program. Parents interested in getting their child on a waiting list for the program are asked to contact social worker Katie Johnson at the elementary school.

“Our intention is for it not to feel like summer school,” said Gould.