Back in full swing: SCS summer camp sees high attendance at 2022 sessions

Published 10:34 am Tuesday, July 5, 2022

By EMILY SPARACINO | Staff Writer

CHELSEA – Children excitedly welcomed a pair of special visitors to Forest Oaks Elementary School on Wednesday, June 29.

The Greater Birmingham Humane Society brought two dogs to visit with the children during the Shelby County Schools Community Education Program’s Summer Camp.

“They are teaching kids how to be kind to animals and how to treat them,” Community Education Activities Manager Robin Neal said.

The animal-themed visit was one of many fun activities planned for the district’s 2022 summer camp, which will continue on weekdays from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Friday, July 29.

This year’s activities and field trips mark a return to the normal offerings in pre-pandemic years, according to SCS Public Relations and Community Education Supervisor Cindy Warner.

“I think they’ve gone really well,” Warner said. “This is the first full year we’ve been back in operation since COVID, where we implemented field trips for all sites. This is the first year that they’re back in full swing, and I think the kids have really enjoyed that.”

In addition to field trips and special visitors like those from the GBHS, participants have engaged in arts and crafts projects, games, outside play and enrichment activities at four summer camp sites: FOES, Inverness Elementary School, Calera Elementary School and Helena Intermediate School.

The children might not have realized it, but interacting with the dogs from GBHS was a part of the camp’s mission to foster physical, emotional and social growth in each child in a safe and fun environment.

“Being able to teach them about kindness through animals hopefully is something we can impress upon them about being kind to everything and everyone,” Warner said.

On Tuesday, June 28, children at Inverness traveled to Let’s Play, an indoor soft play center, for a time of physical activity in a safe, air-conditioned environment.

“They do have a schedule they follow of structured things we do with them,” Warner said. “We’re encouraging them to still do things that help them grow and help them developmentally and encourage their creativity and fitness, but yet, we also don’t want it to feel like they’re having to come and do school.”

Neal said children also have been treated to food trucks and inflatables at their school sites this summer.

If attendance numbers are any indication, this year’s camp has been well-received.

Weekly attendance has averaged about 68 students at Calera, 73 at Forest Oaks, 42 at Helena and 75 at Inverness for a total of nearly 260 students.

“It is pretty close to what they have had in previous summers, and a little higher in some sites,” Warner said. “Last year, we ran about 225, so we are up at a few of our locations. If you count the highest weeks, we would be at 275 this year.”

Warner said securing adequate staffing for summer camp has been one of their only issues.

“A lot of our summer camp site folks end up being a lot of the same ones that work After School Care for us,” Warner said, and added that a person must be at least 16 years old to work for the program. “After School Care is the perfect job for someone who wants to work just a few hours a week, but no nights or weekends. We’re open from 3-6 p.m. We have classified staff, certified staff and high school and college-age workers. Several former staff members have gone on to be very successful educators in our district.”

The Community Education Program’s After School Care is offered at the district’s elementary and intermediate schools during the school year.

The SCS Community Education Summer Camp program is open to children zoned for Shelby County Schools who are entering kindergarten through the completion of fifth grade.

On Wednesday, July 20, SCS is partnering with Alabaster City Schools to host Rockin’ Eco Hero Steve Trash, who will entertain children from all summer camp sites with magic tricks, science and music, all with a heavy dose of humor.

“He’s very entertaining, and the kids absolutely love him,” Warner said. “They really enjoyed him last year, so we’re bringing him back.”

In addition to traditional summer camps, the SCS Community Education Program also offers one-week summer enrichment camps related to music, art, STEM, kindergarten and other themes.

At the Kitchen Chemistry Camp on July 18-21, for example, participants will learn how to design and create soap, hand scrub, lip balm, bath bombs and perfume.

“These are additional opportunities,” Warner said of the specialty camps. “Maybe a student doesn’t want to do a summer camp every day and is just looking for something fun to do a week at a time.”

For more information about summer camp, enrichment or after school care, visit Shelbyed.k12.al.us/communityed.html.